In recent years, China and particularly the Greater Bay Area have experienced unprecedented economic growth and prosperity. The extensive reformation of the Chinese economic model that enabled the country's opening to the global market was paralleled by a rapid transformation of the landscape of the delta. This was mainly due to urbanization, as a substantial portion of the rural population, migrated to the urban areas to partake in the benefits of globalization and the free market.

However, the process of urbanization created an unbalanced development in the region. This unbalanced development is expressed at all levels. The policies outlining the regional development of the Greater Bay Area prioritizes economic prosperity mainly within the limits of the core and key node cities. This led to planning and governmental bodies neglecting the importance of peri-urban and rural areas not only in economic terms but also in terms of their environmental and social value.

When addressing balanced development within the GBA region, peri-urban areas in particular can become key elements in the planning process. Utilization of local strengths and opportunities and close co-operative links with the adjacent rural and urban areas will provide a framework for a substantial redefinition of these peri-urban areas. By creating a network of peri-urban areas, ties between the urban and rural areas can finally be strengthened.

These peri-urban areas will eventually become places of opportunity for a large portion of the population who will migrate to the GBA region. At the same time by incorporating nature-based solutions, the peri-urban region will be transformed into a network of performative ecological landscapes that will have the ability to provide environmental, economic, and social resilience to the region.


The Team

Ann Eapen

 comes from Kerala, in South India where she studied architecture. She is currently in the urbanism track and is interested in a landscape-based approach to regional design, that focuses on building up resiliency in the face of climate change.

Minshi Zhang 

obtained her Bachelor's degree in Urban and Rural Planning in China. Born and raised in the Greater Bay Area, she has witnessed rapid urbanization in the metropolitan area and the environmental degradation problems brought by it. By participating in this project, she aims to understand the complex mechanisms of regional development from different perspectives.


Qian Yao 

is a Chinese student who obtained her bachelor's degree in Landscape Architecture in China. Attracted by the urban landscape, she aims to better understand delta regions through designing different scales from both urban design and landscape view.

Anyi Yan

obtained her Bachelor's degree in Urban and Rural Planning in China, and she is studying Urbanism at TU Delft currently. She is interested in social issues within the urban environment throughout the process of rapid urbanization in China, and she is curious about how urban design and planning can affect the improvement of these complex problems.

Pavlos Andrianos  

comes from Athens, Greece where he studied Architecture. After two years of work in the field of and being fascinated by urban environments, he wants to broaden his knowledge in the sustainable development of cities and urban design.


The Quest

Regional Networks Linking Centers Within the Greater Bay Area

It is ... a matter of exploiting scale economies in complementary relationships and synergic effects in co-operative activities, achieved through participation in the network.
Capello (2000, p. 1927)

Distribution of Land Uses and their Contribution to the Economy  

Among the contributing factors, socioeconomic development plays a dominant role in urban land expansion."

World Resources Institute (1996; Henderson, 2003; Seto et al., 2011)

Social and Environmental Vulnerabilities

"How households are inserted into urban economic, social and political realms of activity greatly determines how they will gain access to environmental resources and cope with environmental stress and deterioration stemming from their use."

(Douglass, 1992)


The Challenge

How can the peri-urban areas adapt to the regional polycentric structure of the GBA and strengthen ties between the urban and rural areas?

How can the local economies in the peri-urban areas be strengthened to evenly distribute economic gains and resources across the GBA?

 How can we address environmental degradation and mitigate risks of climate change through site-sensitive landscape-based interventions to improve livability?


The Game

Concept for game development and materials used.

Principles behind the Game

Through the game board, we tried to resolve the tensions arising from urban and rural expansions. The morphological element we used to address this was the edge, with a focus on the edge dividing built-up areas and agricultural land as our strategic edge. This conflict between urban and rural land uses can be understood as one where there is competition for resources and development rights. The game board highlights how the regional ecological carrying capacity sets the base that allows selected land uses, and how combinations of land use in turn affect how resources flow across the edge.

The Iterations

The game allows stakeholders to transform the quality of the strategic edge through interventions. The region's ecological carrying capacity either encourages or dissuades moves. These conditions highlight zones along the edge with a high demand for eco-services to mitigate environmental risks, and those with high potential for eco-services. The game explores three scenarios, and stakeholders with the most power in a particular scenario, are given more strips to play with. This was done to see how power dynamics and interests affected edge transformation. At the end of each round, we reflected on how the regional carrying capacity changed through the moves made.

Game board highlighting regional conditions and strategic edge.

Conclusions of the Game

Through each scenario, we concluded that areas along that edge that showed high demand for eco-services often showed a high intensity of land uses that prioritize socio-economic developments. On the other hand, areas with high potential for eco-services supported land uses that could directly benefit from them, but at the cost of limited socioeconomic opportunity. We mitigated this imbalance by mixing land uses and inviting stakeholders to combine socio-economic and environmental interests to create a diverse peri-urban edge that is both environmentally resilient and capable of sustaining local economies.


The Vision

Persicapes within the Greater Bay Area.

The vision aims to utilize peri-urban areas to create a belt of Periscapes that bridges regional socio-ecological disparities between highly urbanized centers and rural landscapes. The peri-urban zones here have been identified based on morphological characteristics such as the fragmentation of landscapes, road network density, distribution of points of interest, and population density. The existing local conditions within these peri-scapes will be transformed, to utilize local strengths to create socio-economic opportunities that are either centered on rural upliftment or working in cooperation with highly urbanized centers to relieve its social vulnerability. The Pearl River Delta is further bound by a green-blue network that aims at improving regional resiliency against environmental risks and through a network of functional links with core cities and towns to facilitate cooperative development. The peri-scapes further respond to the regional development outlines, where they are grouped into three main clusters oriented around the poles of Shenzhen-Hong Kong, Guangzhou-Foshan, and Zhuhai-Macau.

Selection of sites for meso scale intervention

Sites Selected to Highlight Strategies toward the Vision

The two sites we selected to highlight these strategies are along the administrative boundaries of neighboring cities and they represent the current models of development in the GBA region. The site conditions at the border of Foshan and Zhaoqing indicate the industrialization of local agricultural landscapes and the environmental risks that development in the area must account for. In the regional vision, this site acts as an ecological-economic buffer, to attract rural migrants who flow away from dense urban centers and provide them with livable conditions and job opportunities centered around agriculture. This vision is to be bolstered by additional nature-based solutions to regulate the risk of natural disasters on the western side of the bay.

Additionally, the site conditions at the border of Dongguan and Huizhou show high levels of industrial activity that is moving towards upscaling its practices in the face of acute water shortage and urban heat island effects. The site plays a socio-economic function in the regional vision through sustainable industrial transformation and prioritizes the inclusion of affordable migrant homes to house the vulnerable population within the already dense eastern side of the bay. The site would also focus on supporting the neighboring urban cores with eco-system services that regulate the harsh microclimate and promotes efficient resource use.

Principles for Development

The peri-urban zones are caught between urban and rural demands, with fragmented landscapes and missing functions. To mitigate this and to strengthen their roles in the regional vision, we have proposed principles for development that are adaptive to local contexts. This includes stimulating a strong economic identity that ensures sufficient opportunities, mitigating the poor living conditions in these fringe areas that are exacerbating social vulnerabilities, and integrating green-blue-grey networks to conserve resources and build up resiliency.

Guiding principles to strategize the vision

Intervention 1: Foshan and Zhaoqing

Our location at the border of Foshan and Zhaoqing contains patches of croplands and traditional dyke-pond systems fragmented by industrial landscapes. The location also sees the convergence of the rivers Beijiang and Xijiang, which are heavily polluted by industrial activity. The challenge here is to integrate the social need for improved economic performance, that works in cooperation with natural systems.

Existing conditions within the selected site

Our first strategy here is to focus on the preservation of the croplands and dike pond systems, and orient the industries directly at its periphery towards agro-industrial activities that can work symbiotically with it. Three agro-industrial clusters would be on the site, and the connectivity between them is enhanced by adapting the road networks according to the space syntax analysis. Residential development would come adjacent to these cores so that the residents can both live and work in the area. The natural network is planned along the river bank, providing a recreational spine that can accommodate rich biodiversity, and naturally remediate pollutants from the agro-industrial activity.

 Proposed land use and connectivity between them

The micro-scale highlights a selection of the site that supports agricultural functions and a transformed industrial zone that works with and markets the agricultural produce. Additionally, a park is proposed along the edge of the river, to limit settlements away from the sensitive flood plains, and accommodate a planting palette that can naturally treat water pollutants. It also serves as a recreational spine for those who live and work in the area.

 Micro scale design within the location.

Adapting tools from regional principles to the site conditions at the micro-scale

Vision for peri-urban areas with the capacity to build on ecological-economic development

Intervention 1: Dongguan and Huizhou

Our location at the border of Dongguan and Huizhou shows a high concentration of industries that attract rural migrants. Despite this increasing pressure on social housing needs, expansion is limited here by the mountains that lie at the borders of the developed land and a freshwater stream that runs through it. A dense network of roads and railway lines connect the clusters of commercial activity, and an additional Dongguan South Station has been proposed along the road which runs through the location connecting the urban cores at Dongguan and Huizhou. The challenge here is to complement the economic productivity of the zone, with natural systems that alleviate the environmental degradation prevalent here while simultaneously providing more social services and improved quality of life.

Existing conditions within the selected site

The site focuses on transit-oriented densification around both the proposed and existing railway stations, with a focus on expanding the building stock to meet the housing needs of the migrant population. The road networks surrounding the proposed station have been intensified to increase connectivity directly around it. Existing agricultural land is preserved and integrated with urban farming to act as a buffer along the river and by the mountains. These mountainous edges are further utilized as an ecological route that is a recreational front for the residents. The industries in the area, are to be transformed and clustered into eco-industrial parks, where industries collaborate to exchange waste and heat to reduce their net environmental impact. These collaborations are to be supported by R&D facilities and improved networks.

Proposed land use and connectivity between them

The micro-scale highlights a selection of the site that shows an integrated view of high-rise apartments alongside urban villages into which we have introduced a mix of social housing. The industries within this site have been organized into clusters that use common infrastructure to share energy, and resources while facilitating diverse collaborations in areas, that were previously monofunctional and segregated. Open spaces have been created as pocket parks along with the dense built fabric, and as riparian parks along the river, to increase walkable access to green recreational spaces. A new mix of public and commercial functions has been additionally proposed along active infrastructural links to improve public connectivity.

Micro scale design within the location.

 Adapting tools from regional principles to the site conditions at the micro-scale

Vision for peri-urban areas with the capacity to build on socio-economic development

The Symbiosis between Urban and Rural Environments

Periscapes ensuring socio-ecological justice within the Greater Bay Area

The Greater Bay Area functions as a highly productive mega-region and is a dominant player in the global market. Adapting to these global demands has in the past upset the balance of socio-environmental justice in the region, and the factors affecting livability are compromised to various degrees within urban, rural, and periurban zones.

A mosaic of periscapes works together in our vision, to regulate environmental threats and strengthen local economies that can work in cooperation with larger developmental transformations. Our proposal highlights how systems of cooperation can be set up across scales that combine the interests of local stakeholders with regional visions,