Out of the Core


The implementation of the polycentric model of the GBA resulted in the core-periphery phenomenon, as was described in the original model of Soja (1974), in which the main cores are highly developed cities, focused on capital, and peripheries are composed by secondary and tertiary citie cores, characterised mainly by industrial labour force. The latest regional planning of the GBA 2020 proposes plans for the region, without considering the existing local conditions and the socio-environmental exposure of the periphery. Thereby, resulting in the imbalanced social and economic concentration, the exclusion of temporary workers and a high level of environmental depletion of secondary and tertiary cities and their surroundings, which reinforces the contrasts between the highly integrated main city cores and the functionally undefined peripheries. 

Hence, peripheral inhabitants, exposed to socio- environmental issues, are the double losers within this global economic driven perspective. The aim is to instil a higher value on the just development of the region, adopting a distributional, operational, and recognitional perspective, which targets the periphery areas and their cities. Each city will simultaneously act as a self-efficient functional unit and as part of an integrated network, placing value on the potential social and environmental synergies. At the same time, by recognizing diverse local conditions and utilising them, a more endogenous multifunctional and inclusive development will be achieved. The secondary and tertiary cities of the periphery areas will create a new tissue of an operational network, aiming to achieve the inclusion of local communities, ensure landscape continuity, and minimise flood exposure. The reorganisation of the periphery areas into a multi-functional, independent, socio-ecological network, operating on a local level, different from the global polycentric network of the GBA, holds the potential to redefine the existing imbalance and dependencies within the region, and ultimately form a more socially inclusive and environmentally resilient mega region.


The Team

Andria Charilaou

grew up in Nicosia, Cyprus and obtained her Architectural Engineering diploma from the University of Cyprus. After her working experience in Cyprus, Italy, and Portugal as an architect, she decided to expand her research interests and explore urbanism to further her insights into diverse and complex environments.

Anna Kalligeri Skentzou

grew up in Athens, Greece. She obtained her Architectural Engineering diploma from the National Technical University of Athens. After her diploma thesis she decided to pursue a Master in Urbanism to further broaden her perspective, knowledge and understanding the complexity of the urbanised environment.

Shiru Liu

grew up in China and obtained her bachelor's degree in urban and rural planning from South China University of Technology and continued her master's degree in Urbanism at TU Delft. As a person who was born in the GBA area, she is keen on the topics of complex delta which helps her to deepen the understanding of regional planning and get an insight into sustainable urban design and social integration.

Julia Daher

grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and obtained her Architecture and Urban Planning diploma at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. During her studies, she focused on the interactions of social cultural practices and landscape dynamics, which motivated her to deepen her knowledge and experiment more by pursuing a Master in Urbanism at TU Delft.

Victoria Imasaki

grew up in São Paulo, Brazil, and obtained her Bachelors in Architecture at the University of São Paulo. During her studies, the urban realm and the design of open spaces, as well as water related natural processes, were her main focuses of interest. After graduation, worked as an architect for some years before deciding to go back to studies in a Master of Landscape Architecture at TU Delft.


The Quest

Urbanising Deltaic Regions

The largest and fastest growing metropolitan regions of the world are taking advantage of their position in deltas, benefiting from the strategic position for navigation and the fertility of the landscape, at the same time trying to deal with their vulnerability to flooding, salinization and silting. During the last decade, the issue of vulnerability of urbanised areas in delta regions to the powers of nature has become a central issue.

(Nijhuis, M., 2014)

Geographically Uneven Development

Geographically uneven development as both outcome and medium of capitalist historical development, patterning of geographical unevenness between rural and urban areas, between subnational regions and among nations.


The formation and reformation of the spatial divisions of labour is a system which works to concentrate and localise capitalist development unevenly. The geographical transfer of value (carried in the networks of trade, money flows, labour migration, and technology exchange) plays an important role in producing and reproducing geographically uneven development at all its scales.


Double Exposure

“Double Exposure” accounts for the areas where there is vulnerability both to climate change and to economic globalisation (or the lack of interaction with the globalised world).

(O’Brien, K.L.,2000)

“By double exposure, we refer to the fact that regions, sectors, ecosystems and social groups will be confronted both by the impacts of climate change and by the consequences of globalisation”

(O’Brien, K.L.,2000)


The Challenge

How can deltaic and environmental conditions enhance and structure a synergetic network of cities which has aligned socio-environmental values for development?

How can a collaboration of cities at a local level activate the periphery's role at a regional level?

How can the local economies of the periphery areas be strengthened while maintaining local identity and ensuring an even distribution of economic gain?


The Game

Morphological Game Setting

To create a more endogenous multifunctional and inclusive development we used the game and the method of pointillism as a tool to unveil the potentials from the existing local conditions and target the vulnerabilities of each area.

In the first phase of the game, the board is set with the existing vulnerabilities and potentials. Based on our analysis, flooding is placed as the main environmental vulnerability, the incompatible land uses as an indicator of socio-environmental vulnerability, and lastly the urban villages as the main social vulnerability. Then, the potentials consist of the access to mobility, transitional areas and vacant space.

Catalogue of Actions and Iterations

The second phase of the game focuses on the formulation of strategies, each: targeting a different pattern of overlap of potentials and vulnerabilities.

Witch lead us to the formation of four different scenarios:
the social, the socio-environmental, environmental, and social-environmental-economic.

Four different game iterations were played and tested at a smaller scale for each scenario.

Final Iteration

Using the same principles and rules, the final iteration is played on the regional scale. This is feasible because of the patterns that were identified, and by that the strategies can be tested and replicated through the board.

Three main strategies are needed to target the vulnerabilities of the region, having different features and acting on different scales. First, a coherent green and blue network in the regional scale emphasises on the water management –flooding risk– , then a corridor of green patches within the territorial scale, targets the incompatible land uses and enhances livability. Finally, the a strategy with a more punctual character, intents to improve the livability of the urban villages creating a network that connects them.

The conclusion map indicates the critical periphery territories and Zhongshan is selected since a juxtaposition of the three strategies exists.


The Vision

The Regional Vision

The Vision proposes the creation of a new operational network for the periphery areas that has aligned values with society and environment; resulting in an evolutionary resilient mega region structure. The vision seeks the oportunity to criticise the proposed outline by experimenting with a new model which is more aligned with the existing local conditions and prevents the magnifications of the existing vulnerabilities.

The strategy follows a socio-environmental approach, proposing a city network of functional clusters and a complementary, protective environmental backbone. The development plan follows environmental guidelines, placing nature-based solutions that act as regional backbones, structuring the collaboration between periphery areas. It embraces tertiary cities as active members of the region, while enhancing their self-sufficiency.

By highlighting and strengthening a network of synergetic exchange in-between the periphery areas, the region will be able to have a more even development, ensuring a bilateral exchange relationship between main cores and periphery areas. This exchange
will make the system more accessible bridging the gap between cores and peripheries.

The Territory Location

Zhongshan was selected strategically as an example of a “double loser (an area excluded from the polycentric model and highly exposed to environmental issues). Moreover, it is not consolidated and it is located in the main axis of development which makes it a target for the GBA’s outline, which does not take into consideration its social-environmental vulnerabilities.

The Territorial Proposal

In order for Zhongshan (macro scale) to have an active role on the regional scale, it needs to create synergies in different scales. Meaning that the bilateral connections between the new clusters and the existing main cores are highly dependent on the activation of its own territory. This activation depends on a meso scale intervention: in which the tertiary cities are connected with the adjacent tertiary cities creating functional clusters. Moreover, the tertiary cities would depend on a dynamic connection with the villages and the agricultural land, activating also the micro scale. Therefore, the function of each cluster is based on the local character of the tertiary cities and villages that it is composed of, forming an endogenous multifunctional and inclusive network

The environmental strategy functions on similar principles, addressing different issues at different scales. At the regional scale, it creates an extensive green and blue network, limiting the exposure to water hazards and pollution. At the territorial scale, it creates buffer zones between industrial and urban areas, regulating urban and industrial growth. Lastly, at the local scale it creates a connection between urban, natural areas and agricultural land.

Cooperation between the Tertiary Cities and the Villages

Local Interventions

The first intervention, in the tertiary cities of Shalang and Gangkou, maintains a socio-economic agenda, and investigates how an equitable transition of the functionality of two tertiary cities can be achieved by involving the local communities, local economy and the environment. The second intervention, in the island of Nansha, maintains a socio-environmental agenda and investigates how the functionality of a tertiary city interacts with the environmental backbone.

Intervention 01: A Socio-Economical Synergy of Medical Production

This intervention showcases how the synergy between two tertiary cities can potentially work to increase the local economic value, environmental resilience and social equity, by decreasing the development gap between the cores and the tertiary cities. The cities of Shalang and Gangkou are located at the urbanising periphery of Zhongshan, resulting in a mixed pattern of urban and rural villages, urban settlements, industries and agriculture. The two cities have a different character, with Shalang retaining a more urbanised environment, with a higher concentration of urban services and a direct connection to the inter city railway, while Gangkou is characterised by a mix of industries and villages. The two cities are separated by agriculture land comprising a mix of cropland and wet agriculture. 

Based on the functions that are proposed at the territorial scale, the cooperation of the cities focuses on medical production. For the purpose of medical collaboration, land borrowing and resource sharing, a transitional corridor is activated to connect the areas of manufacturing, innovation and production of medical-related agriculture. At the same time getting local communities and collectives involved and trained to adapt to the transformation. To ensure that economic activities and the transition on the land can be implemented, ecological defence against flooding is urgently needed. To this end, four strategies are envisioned to achieve the even development of the region in social, ecological and economical terms.

The axonometric drawing depicts how the two cities are connected by the transitional corridor. The agricultural zones adjacent to the corridor would be partially converted into medical-related agriculture. Their production would go to collection points and to research/ labs that are also distributed alongside the corridor. It also depicts how the riverbanks of this territory could be rethought in a more virtuous way, with soft edges and vegetated areas which also provide the population with leisure opportunities. In the future, this preserved free space can become an agent in flood prevention.

The strategy adopted in the urban villages focuses on the creation of training opportunities to include villagers in the industrial transition, as well as place-making activities for locals. Some of the buildings and the fragmented factories are transformed into training facilities, which are also part of the green public system to improve livability. A green corridor is envisioned to connect the public spaces with the training facilities such as indoor community centres, labs and urban farms. As part of the transitional corridor, it contributes in exchanging and updating knowledge of the new industry for the villagers.

Intervention 02: A Social-Environmental Synergy of Tourism and Energy-related Agriculture

The second intervention is located on the island of Nansha, in close proximity to the global port of the GBA, the urbanising cities of Nansha and the infrastructural developments connecting the east and west banks of the river. The area comprises the trietery city of Wanqingshazhe, numerous lineal agricultural villages and agricultural land, containing both cropland and ponds. The current regional plans propose the development of a high density urbanised area and manufacturing hub. However, the current plans don't take into account the local residents and at the same time, the area remains susceptible to high environmental risks like flooding, soil pollution and salinization. Thereby, the second intervention investigates how a tertiary city and its adjacent villages, can take part in a regional economic development, by including local communities and responding to environmental risks. According to the functions that are proposed at the territorial scale, the area will transition in a dual functionality, with the stimulation of eco-tourism, the transition to a more water-based agriculture and the creation of cohesive natural systems.

Specific strategies for developing tourism and agriculture to manage floods and preserve local characters are demonstrated in the area with mixed patterns of village settlements, agricultural lands, waterways and infrastructure. Some agricultural lands go back to nature, like wetlands, and are used as buffer zones to manage flood. Some farmlands are transformed into water-based agriculture for energy crops. The raw materials and secondary products will be transported via the infrastructural networks. The secondary road connecting the tertiary city to the surrounding villages provides access to tourism. Along the road, diverse landscapes can be experienced, which helps to keep local characteristics and simulate the local economy.


The Greater Bay Area followed an economically driven development to adapt to global market demands, generating disparity between highly integrated city cores and functionally undefined peripheries, while simultaneously depleting the social and environmental systems. Our vision for the Greater Bay Area emphasises in the periphery areas, proposing their reorganisation into an endogenous, multi-functional network, operating on a local level, placing value on social and environmental synergies. These synergies, deriving from local conditions and values could potentially work across scales, redefining the existing imbalances and ultimately facilitating the emergence of a more socially inclusive and environmentally resilient mega region.