Globalization has left behind a fragmented locality. Even though the Greater Bay Area is one of the most developed areas in the world, its endless growth has neglected its landscape. The overchallenged environment has reached its maximum capacity. This global growth that has led to an uneven regional development has endorsed unequal opportunities and unexploited potential intra and inter dependencies. Therefore, the impact of neoliberalism through this extremely rapid and unplanned, and profit-oriented urbanization has resulted in conflicting blurred conditions between edges of diverse functionalities and land uses, which cause further environmental, social, and economic issues.

(Re)Defining the blurred edges, the in-between areas are an opportunity to recreate the missing links in the landscape and to bring the environment back into focus. This will be the driving force to increase awareness and empower civil society through the introduction of new and accessible multifunctional cores for all, to create a just built environment and embrace social inclusion. Furthermore, the GBA landscape has the potential to (re)shape connections of cooperation, complementarity, and trade between east and west areas of the PRD, the urban remnants and the fragmented perhiphery with the urban cores through the multi-scalar in-between spaces. Especially, they can help to use the land more efficiently, address thehealth and safety risks posed by extensive flooding and drough, and achieve landscape resilience.

These in-between spaces, excluded from the globalized polycentricity of the GBA embed the greatest potential to refine intra and inter dependencies to set a more inclusive functional cohesion and a more sustainable mega regional form. The in-between areas across scales are revealing the physical carriers that have the potential to (re)create the functional cohesion and subsequently the landscape resilience and continuity that endorse a fair growth and an inclusive society needed for the GBA to achieve a just polycentric system.


The Team

Leto Demetriadou grew up in Nicosia, Cyprus. She obtained her Architectural Engineering diploma from the Technical University of Athens. After her diploma thesis she decided to deepen more into urbanism to understand a bit more the complexity of the urbanized environment, including the one she grew up in.  

Yunshu Jiang grew up in Chengdu, China, and comes from landscape architecture. She has always tried to solve problems with landscape thinking and is also interested in urban design in complex contexts. She is curious about what role landscape will play in this highly urbanized area of GBA.

Panagiota Tziourrou - Patrisia  grew up in Paphos, Cyprus. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Cyprus. After an internship in Barcelona and her working experience in Cyprus as an architect, she decided to further broaden her perspective and knowledge of urbanism, in order to contribute to the urban design of her country.

Yuan Yuan grew up in Changchun, an inland city in the northeast of China. She got her Bachelor of Landscape Architecture at Harbin Institute of Technology. She is interested in livable environment design and expects to have a deep understanding of regional planning and urban sociology through this project.

Lilly Petter received her bachelor's degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Kassel, Germany. After an internship in Rotterdam, she decided to move to the Netherlands to further broaden her perspective and knowledge in an international environment.

Yuqi Pu is a Chinese student who graduated with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Sichuan Agricultural University. She is interested in the human-nature relationship and public space design. In 2020, she moved to Delft to pursue a master's to expand her knowledge of landscape and urbanism. 


The Quest

Landscape Fragmentation

"the booming economic developments have disrupted the natural balance of a large number of delta systems worldwide and have caused the excessive exploitation of natural resources"

(Wei Zhang, 2015)

Multifunctional and social challenge

"Traditional land-use zoning is considered to act as a barrier to sustainable development in peri-urban areas. Indeed, it fails to consider their highly dynamic reality and to safeguard the multi-functional use of spaces that support socially and environmentally sustainable practices."
(Geneletti, D., La Rosa, D., Spyra, M., & Cortinovis, C. ,2017)

‘Flawed’ City Network

“These megalopolises, which have become urban regions, are difficult to manage and call for new forms of governance, especially as they are not always coherent urban networks”
(Jean-François Doulet, 2008)


The Challenge

How can the in-between areas among the existing metropolitan systems and the surrounding segregated areas contribute to foster spatial and social integration within?

How can the symbiosis between human and natural systems be achieved in a high-rate urbanizing and fragmented landscape by ensuring both social and environmental resilience?

What is the functional role of the in-between landscapes and urban fragments in the neighborhoods, city's and regions polycentricity? How can they contribute to a more inclusive polycentric system?


The Game

The framework
The morphological game is built based on edges created from three main aspects, the environmental, the social and the economic one. We firstly highlight the environmental edges, the flood risk areas, and the administrative borders as artificial socioeconomic edges. Next, we set a 2 by 2 km grid to identify the edges created from the coastal line, forestland, cropland, and the built land. Furthermore, we highlight the urban cores, the hospitals as the main metropolitan services and the industrial areas as the economic. Finally, we highlight the in-between areas, defined as blurred spaces where edges of different aspects are combined.

Game play
After identifying the in-between areas as the 'zigzags' in the GBA, we set up the rules of playing with the 'zigzags'. We define six possible movements, 'Extend' and 'Squish' by pulling the tip apart or close; 'Add a new function' with a new thread crossing the current one; 'Densify' and 'Loose' by changing the density of the zigzag; and 'Change the Orientation' of the tip pointing. Through this process of the ‘zigzag’ manipulation we clarified the rules of our game to move on our final step.

Finally, we created three scenarios based on our rules. The environmental scenario aims to achieve the symbiosis of humans and ecology by reclaiming nature and connecting the green patches. The social scenario seeks to set a strong polycentric network cooperating with the in-between areas through a socio-spatial integration-oriented development strategy. The economic scenario intends to create a polycentric network in which the East and the West are closely linked. It can be achieved by industrial transfer, improving accessibility of infrastructure, and expansion of mix-use urban fabric. Following the sequence of each scenario, we identify some commons, conflicts, and opportunities.

The Vision

We envision the GBA as a common field of action for both human and ecological entities. By 2030 the environmental capacity of the GBA landscape will be restored through the in-between areas that will eliminate fragmentation and create a resilient landscape. The (re)connection of the fragmented landscape is achieved through the redefined in-between areas as synergized fragments of the landscape. These actions enable the development of ecological and human entities and the improvement of access to environmental ecoservices. Moreover, the balance in opportunities for development between high and less developed areas is achieved through the development of their in-between areas. A spatially just environment will be attained by the endorsement of development and increase of accessibility in less developed areas through connecting and reinforcing the transportation of people creating a just polycentric landscape. Adding to these actions, the self-empowerment of underprivileged people through intra-solidarity around shared concerns, and inter-support to negotiate a greater accountability from the government will create sufficient room for participatory decision-making actions to happen in multifunctional in-between areas.

Firstly, through the mapping process of the edges between Built-land, Cropland, Forestland, , rivers or the coastal line, and their relation with the administrative borders, we identify the in-between areas. In these locations spatial elements of two or more adjacent edges are blurred. Then, we analyze the blurred conditions in these areas, concluding to the most critical ones, where the environmental, social, and economic approaches ally, conflict or embody opportunities for mutual development. Finally, the chosen case studies are based on an assessment for the most crucial areas, where the synergy between humans and ecology is most problematic.

In-between principles and strategies

How can the in-between conditions support our strategic framework?

The in-between areas are blurred, transitional areas with multiple identities, where various functions are being evolved. By identifying the morphology and the functionalities of these areas in the regional scale, we propose a strategic framework with both bottom-up and top-down implementations, across scales, based on certain principles and current conditions. The principles are divided into two main categories, the environmental and the socio-economic. They are interrelated as socio-economic activity is developed on the environmental landscape.

Toolbox for proposed functionalities

The toolbox is divided into two main categories, the environmental and socio-economic functionalities and at the same time the three aspects are interrelated when applying the actions. The first four strategies include the reclamation of the natural flooding zones of the rivers, and the coastal line with the green structures; the creation of new green areas in high dense urban areas; and the expansion and connection of the existing green bodies. These strategies consist of different kinds of parks, forests, salt marshes and wetlands. The subsequent five strategies include the development of multifunctional cores, urban agriculture, and educational spaces. They are also related with the empowerment of public participation and development in the periphery through subsidies and new shared spaces , respectively. In-addition, multifunctional industrial clusters are proposed. The specific actions and functionalities of these strategies are high dense, compact, multifunctional spaces with residential, commercial, leisure, educational and social functions, based on high-tech innovative systems and accessible through transportation hubs. Finally, the last strategy of infrastructure expansion is related to the expansion of basic social services such as water and electricity networks in less developed areas and the fair distribution of transportation infrastructure in the whole GBA area.

Guangzhou-Foshan:  The agricultural island

Current situation

The first selected project area is located south of Guangzhou and directly bordering the Pearl River Delta. As a result of the complex local river network the area forms an island and is not directly connected to the surrounding area. It is an intermediate area between the urban structures on the mainland and the urban agricultural landscapes and the delta and its rivers. Thereby it is in a very vulnerable position. This complex collision of several important edges places this currently underdeveloped area in the GBA in a key position for our vision. For sustainable future development, a dynamic plan is required that pays special attention to the environmental circumstances and catalyzes a symbiotic development between urbanity and the environment.

Social (a), economic (b) and environmental (c) layers


Proposal for the “agricultural island”

Social (a), economic (b) and environmental (c) strategies

The aim is to work with the urbanization process in the GBA by strategically creating qualitative living spaces for the inhabitants. This process is intended to be just by focusing more on the silent stakeholders, who can otherwise be easily overlooked. This includes, for example, nature conservation through the protection of the riverbanks by means of natural buffer zones and the expansion of the already existing green network. Among other things, this will better protect the area from climate change impacts such as flooding.

 The social aspect of the area will be further supported by a multifunctional core that will provide leisure and services as well as communication and education facilities for the area. This will ensure that both higher and lower income groups meet on equal terms and have the same access and opportunities. These multifunctional centers are mainly created by and around the new infrastructures and transportation HUBs. Outside of them, agriculture will be further advanced, becoming more efficient, smarter, and more environmentally friendly due to scientific and technological advances.

 Micro Scale - before (left) and after (right)

Nano Scale - proposed functionalities

Guangzhou-Foshan: the urban industry

Current situation

The second study area is located on the northwestern border of the PRD and lies between the periphery and the cities of Foshan and Guangzhou. This makes the area an important connection point in the GBA.

 The area has undergone significant changes over the past 40 years. Due to the past urbanization process in the PRD, the area became greatly mixed between the different land uses of agricultural, industrial, and urban land. This sprawl has resulted in landscape fragmentation and a reduction in biodiversity due to the minimization of natural habitats in the area. It is inhabited mainly by lower income groups from agriculture and industry who are segregated from the rest of the other two cities.

Social (a), economic (b) and environmental (c) layers

The various strategies seek to better integrate the segregated areas with the rest, physically and socially. By creating a multifunctional core that provides needed social services, a place is created where residents can come together and interact with each other. In particular, this will integrate the lower income groups in the area. This equality should also be reflected in the environment. By creating green corridors and natural buffer zones around the river system as well as the industrial clusters, the ecoservices will be made accessible to all and make the area more resilient.

 The area is already part of the industrial hotspot in the west of the Pearl River Delta. This will be seen as a development opportunity and therefore positively encouraged. The low-end industries already located in the area will be clustered to become better interlinked with the surrounding area and will be transformed into greener and cleaner high-end industries. Thereby, it will be more feasible to integrate the industry into the urban fabric and provide better circumstances for the workers. This should also attract new residents and young entrepreneurs who will make the area more diverse and help the area advance further.

Social (a), economic (b) and environmental (c) strategies

 Micro Scale - before (left) and after (right)

Nano Scale - proposed functionalities


Synergizing the Greater Bay Area

Through this vision and strategy, the GBA will become an integrated polycentric region. Urban cores will be well connected, something that will increase the opportunities of inhabitants in the job market as well as in their leisure time. Peri-urban areas will be integrated into regional networks through the reinforcement of the transportation networks and the creation of new multifunctional areas. Walkable sub-centers make a wide range of goods and services accessible to all. Beyond that, people of all parts of society can take part in public and civic life. A well developed and affordable public transport network will ensure mobility between neighborhoods and agglomerations. It will help to establish equal access to education and jobs. This process of integration, through the multifunctional in between areas, will be embedded into the framework of endogenous cultures, societies, and spatial particularities. To conclude, the GBA will combine prosperity with livability and sustainability, while endorsing its diversity.