Seemingly endless resources are exploited in the process of development drastically changing the existing natural systems. Urbanisation is a complex process that requires social, political and environmental changes. However, these very alterations in return caused high stresses and disturbances in natural and human systems leading to socio-ecological criticalities in the region of GBA. External disturbances with the lack of foresight and regard to the ecological systems also made this region increasingly vulnerable to environmental hazards and risks. People, on the other hand, were side-lined from the decision-making process leading to socio-economic vulnerabilities.

For the longest time, profit over prosperity and well-being drove the regional development of the GBA. As a result, the fragility of the interdependency of territories of inhabitation came under intense strain creating a dangerous precedent for the future. These territories are complex and bound by human systems. The human interventions, conscious or otherwise, have diminished the resilience of the region. Resilience thinking is crucial to building preparedness, persistence, adaptability and transformability of interdependent systems.

Cities are living organisms that are vulnerable to change; resilience should be understood not as a static presence but a process to withstand these nonlinear unpredictable dynamics and patterns of abrupt changes. Urban centres cannot function independently and need ecosystems near and far to survive. These accessories lose their capacities to persist under constant demands. These multiple networks of systems need to be encouraged to build resilience by creating complex adaptive socio-ecological systems.

Building evolutionary resilience is a mutually dependent cross-system approach affecting both natural and human systems. Enabling people to become active agents of change can facilitate synergetic development to themselves, society and the environment. The silent stakeholders; the planet and the future generations should be acknowledged to maintain the region in a state of dynamic equilibrium where the three pillars; people, planet and prosperity balance each other out.


The Team

Divya Gunnam pursued her bachelor’s in architecture from R.V. College of Architecture, Bangalore. Post her bachelors, she worked in architecture firms for four years focusing on campus designs and master planning. Intrigued by the impact large scale projects can have on people and society as a whole, she moved to Delft to pursue masters in Urbanism in 2019. Value-based planning that prioritises spatial justice is her main interest.

Zhongjing Zhang obtained her bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning at Tongji University in Shanghai, China. Now she came to the Netherlands to broaden her perspective to better understand the city and people.

Kinga Murawska

Earned a bachelor’s degree in Architecture at Wrocław University of Technology in Poland. After her studies, she practiced for 1,5 years in architectural offices in Copenhagen working mainly on urban planning competitions for Scandinavian cities. In 2019 she moved to the Netherlands to further pursue her dream of becoming an urbanist.

in collaboration with
Sanjana  Shettigar


The Quest

Effects of Urbanisation

“Not only is poverty a persistent feature of societies at all levels of per capita income, including the highest, but accelerated economic growth brings its own forms of environmental crises, social dislocation and heightened social inequalities which the market has not displayed any capacity to resolve.”

(Mike Dougass, 1991)


“Human intervention inevitably leads to surprises which confound social expectations while not being unpredictable from a scientific viewpoint; which are generally harmful to social resilience and human welfare but also create windows of opportunity in environmental management.”

(Kates & Clark 1996)

People as Agents

“Where governments have remained unresponsive to questions of access and the environmental management needs in low-income urban habitats, the poor have frequently organised themselves within communities and with broader national and international coalitions to invade and develop unused urban land, to build houses, deliver water, and engage in other environmental resource access and management activities.”

(Mike Dougass, 1992)


The Challenge

How can value-based integrated planning redirect the course of development in the GBA towards a people-ecological centric equilibrium?

How does resilience thinking address the social vulnerabilities and environmental criticalities prevalent in the region?

What are the strategies needed to be adopted to boost fair growth across the region while empowering people to become active agents of change?


The Game

The iterations

For the morphological game, we formulated values and principles. These were translated into strategies which could then be implemented in the future Greater Bay Area. We used different mediums and configurations of threads to represent networks of ecology and infrastructure that exist in this region. We explored multiple ways of representing resilience through linear systems. The next step is to identify the potentials which could be connected to act as the drives for the entire region. The language of lines was interpreted differently at various scales. At a regional level, these lines become predominant axes, at a macro scale, they are the network of attractions and coastal treatments against flooding at the local scale. Through these intersections of different structures, we started to identify areas of strategic interventions.

Conclusions after the game

The conclusion map shows three networks; green network, coastal protection systems and the knowledge axis. The green structure binds the whole region together by integrating ecological systems with the urban fabric. These lines represent multiple functions at local scales which are driven by local challenges and potentialities. Secondly, the Nansha area becomes the new centre of the knowledge economy. This knowledge axis along with the economy and ecology axes establish new structures of development in the western bay of the GBA. The focus of development shifted from the east bay. The new centralities achieved by this move create balance and establish synergetic growth across the region.


The Vision


The urban area between Shenzhen and Dongguan is prone to heat flashes and pluvial flooding due to the greyness of the infrastructure. The region has high levels of air pollution because it mainly houses industries and dormitories for the workers. The area has major water, roads and other infrastructure networks. There are no recreational or leisure places for these vulnerable communities to claim as their own or to provide buffers for the built areas. This area suffers from a drinking water shortage. The reclaimed lands are currently used for agriculture and industrial purposes.

The urban fabric is integrated with green areas to provide accessible public spaces.Green axes are established connecting the existing urban parks, and built areas with the coastline. Along these axes, promenades and boulevards are created that softens the urban space. The 3 olds of the region are identified and replaced with green tissue. Sponge areas are created for water percolation and flood protection. Water catchment areas maintain microclimate of the area and provide access to water systems to vulnerable communities.

A vocational centre at the junction of these multiple ecological and human axes provides the new centrality to the region. The knowledge economy facilitates economic opportunities for unskilled labourers. The reclaimed lands would be brought under the scope of ecological developments. Along with the fish ponds acting as cultural nodes, these new areas would have mangrove raves, ecological and wetlands parks which generate economy. This would incentivise their maintenance and be integrated with the built systems. These activities also aid in integrating the natural systems with the urban fabric better.

The interventions for this area are mainly about integrating green tissue with the existing urban fabric, creating new opportunities to the disenfranchised. The vocational centre is the main attractor that creates public platforms for discussions and dialogue. The plugin area between the Shenzhen and Dongguan region aids in resource and knowledge sharing. The abandoned buildings are revitalised with circular approaches and used for multi-functions like living and working. The smaller branches of water which are linear can be activated by introducing self-purifying plants. They also provide leisure for people.



The peri-urban areas across the GBA are under a constant threat of urban sprawl and loss of identity and identity. The area near the Panyu district has huge infrastructure networks cutting through them. It houses several old abandoned built areas like old factories and old houses that are in the need of regeneration and restructuring. It also houses agricultural lands and fish ponds. The presence of the industries add to the air and land pollution of the surrounding areas.

Development control lines and agricultural conservation areas established would curb the development, protect the agricultural lands and conserve biodiversity. The fish ponds and the urban green structures are connected through green axes. These axes fracture the built fabric by integrating with green to provide buffer spaces and moderate the air quality. The three olds are identified and regeneration lines are established where new interventions would be developed in the future.

There’s an existing medical centre which forms the base for the establishment of the knowledge economy. Testing centres, workshops, research labs are created in this new centrality to boost this to the surrounding regions. For the creation of productive landscapes, agricultural lands would look at increasing the food production capacity with the help of new research centres. These areas along with the fish ponds also facilitate eco-tourism and agro-tourism for revenue generation. Multifunctional landscapes are created by using the existing infrastructure lines like highways to increase the efficiency of land use.

At the micro-scale, the coastal edges are activated by the creation of waterfronts for recreational and ecological functions. Softer measures implemented for flood management also aids in the prevention of saltwater intrusion. The industrial landscapes are transformed into a hybrid typology of living, working and technological areas. The main goals are ensuring fair access to green areas and public spaces to the vulnerable communities, provide platforms for public participation and ensure sustainable resource usage.



The rural area in the Nansha district has lands reclaimed from water which are being used predominantly for agriculture and aquaculture. The area is highly flood-prone. There is an existent system of flood protection measures in place like dykes. This area is still quite rural in nature with small villages along the dykes. The main potential of this region is the proposed bridge connecting the east and the west bay. This place is suitable to test out the strategies to explore sustainable ways of development without resulting in environmental degradation or loss of identity

The ecological axis proposed at the regional scale overlaps with the new infrastructure axes creating multiple potential nodes of development. A knowledge-based economy dealing with sustainable agricultural practices and research labs is established for the local farmers and the people from around the region. This requires other support functions which are used as potentials to engage the coastline to provide incentives for their maintenance and conservation. The agricultural lands are protected with the establishment of development control lines and fish ponds become areas of eco-tourism and recreational areas that could be integrated with the cultural activities to encourage localised economy and engage the local people in this process of development. The coastline becomes multifunctional with the creation of wetland parks and leisure activities making sure the flood protection measures are softer, greener. There is a sense of porosity to provide room for the water in this process of development.

The introduction of the knowledge centre acts as a catalyst for generating an economy. Local economies are protected and integrated with the new developments. At the local level, people get involved in this transformation by diversifying their lands for different purposes. The coastlines are engaged with the new functions while ensuring softer buffer zones. The creation of new bridges facilitates easy access to these knowledge centres. Museums, agro-tourism and ecological parks generate revenue but also represent the local culture of the area.


Networking the Megaregion Towards Resilience

Our project envisions the Greater Bay Area as a megaregion of resilient city networks, which would function in a state of dynamic equilibrium. These networks, social, ecological and economic, would contribute to a fair and equitable society, mindful usage of resources and overall sustainable development.

The vision proposes a value-based developmental model that is representative of people and their quality of life. It fosters a growth engine focusing on building social and ecological resilience for the region. Resilience thinking as a strategy fixes the previous shortcomings and also facilitates the ability of complex social-ecological systems to change, adapt and transform to people or environmental induced stresses.

The resilient network city proposal explores the interdependencies of complex systems in this megaregion and calls for a paradigm shift in thinking by prioritising people and planet through integrated regional planning.