During the period of globalization, cities have become places where the government demonstrates its competitive advantages. Besides, human and physical capital gradually gather towards the more competitive urban area. The flows of various materials, through transportation and technological innovation, have brought the major cities closer together, forming a continuous and prosperous metropolis.

However, because of the fierce competition, the originally backward areas are further excluded from the globalization system, even being isolated from the major cities in the region. People from these areas can only be forced to move to the privileged metropolitan area in order to escape from poverty, but without the economic and social support from local government, they still live in a harsh environment.

The rural area provides valuable labor and natural resources to the urban area, but it is always an urban area's accessory. Now, it is the time to break the situation! Sharing is the only key to the door of symbiosis. Shared living is not a lifestyle trend. In fact, it has the potential to address some of the world's most pressing problems. Let us end the cut-throat competition within the region, and replace it with the complementary cooperation to create 'real' arrival cities for every living beings in the Greater Bay Area!


The Team

Elzbieta Maria Zdebel

Hi, I am Ela and I come from Poland, where I also graduated from Architecture. I shifted towards Urbanism as I felt that this is a more powerful tool to have impact on people’s quality of life and happiness. I am interested in injustice and mechanisms that cause it. I am a research-oriented person, as observation, processess and reasoning of things fascinate me.

Yun Sun

Hello I’m Yun Sun. I’m from China, and I’ve been studied landscape for five years. Since I grew up in a coastal city, the marine environment  fascinated me. How to use ecological interventions to create a resilient landscape and an environment in which biodiversities live in harmony with humans is what I hope to study in the future.

Kelvin William Pieter Saunders

Hey there, I am Kelvin Saunders. I was born and raised in The Netherlands. Over the years I have developed a real interest for global cities and especially regional development. I completed my architecture bachelor at the Delft University of Technology, where I am also currently studying for my Urbanism masters.

Yu Liu

Hello there! My name is Yu Liu. I am from landscape architecture, because I like the beauty of the details and the feeling that my design is really helpful and loved by people. I am also very interested in interpreting a city from the perspective of urban planners, especially for the country where I was born and raised.

Chien-Yu Lin

Hi, here's Chien-Yu Lin from Taiwan, a small island in
East Asia. I did my bachelor in the urban planning field, and I enjoy observing the different cityscape and landscape and activities under different cultural context.I have several experiences with the regional planning, but it is still my first time to touch the complex global system during my academic life.


The Quest

Environmental Problem Map. Data Source: Guangdong Urban and Rural Planning and Design Research Institute. Made by authors.

Urban transformation

"Approximately 60% of the newly built-up areas were reclaimed from ponds, farmlands, forests, and shrubs during 1988–2003, and, as a consequence of this destroyful policy, some of the green patches had to be turned into farmlands to compensate the loss"

(Zhang et al. 2008)

Socio-economic Problem Map. Data Source: Guangdong Urban and Rural Planning and Design Research Institute. Made by authors.

Flood risk

"Flood sensitivity is expressed in terms of the situation of disadvantaged people in PRD cities where seasonal migrant workers with temporary jobs, laid-off workers, and other low-income people (fishermen, women, self employed, etc.) are most sensitive to hazards and most difficult to recover"

(Shan, 2011).

Socio-cultural Problem Map. Data Source: Guangdong Urban and Rural Planning and Design Research Institute. Made by authors.

Environmental and social justice

"When viewing environmental distress and poverty together, the major conclusion to be drawn is that the consequences of environmental deterioration fall heaviest on the poor. The poor tend to locate near polluting industries, public waste sites, and other extremely polluted areas of the city."

(M. Douglass, 1992)


The Challenges

How can the Greater Bay Area afford fair development towards symbiotic living and working environments regarding the most vulnerable groups through designing with water?


The Game

Space syntax Experiments. Data Source: Guangdong Urban and Rural Planning and Design Research Institute. Made by authors.

Space Syntax

The experimental method that was used as one the strategic tools, was the theory of Space Syntax. We started with the assumption that historically, in delta regions across the Globe, water network was used exactly for the same purposes as streets are being used now.

Thus, we came up with Depth Map analysis of the water infrastructure in the Greater Bay Area. Without this approach, we would only be able to visually distinguish main rivers from the secondary canals, or circle out regions rich in water from the scarce ones.

However, Space Syntax precisely defines the hierarchy of the rivers and gives more information about global and local integration, their role in the bigger system, while explaining also some of the reasons behind water risks that we were already aware of. We also mitigated the network to see, how the global integration changed.

Morphological Game

We use the strip city model to develop understanding of the region on multiple scales. With our code and rules that consist of techniques such as folding and showing power and influence and cutting, creating nodes and finally weaving, we come to an conclusion model which shows the existing competitive polycentric character nodes.

And the in the refined iteration, we propose corridors and new nodes to create a symbiotic and cooperative polycentric model, which leads to possible location for interventions.

We study the possible shift of power on a regional and local scale and thus transforming the local condition.

Morphological Games Iterations. Data Source: Google Earth. Made by Authors


The Vision

Symbiocity Vision Map. Made by authors.

Symbiocity aims to empower the vulnerable groups of people through spatial stress relief and liveable working and living environment in order to contribute to the overall ecological performance of the Greater Bay Area.

Our vision spatially tries to align with the official GBA strategy for development of the areas that are currently less active.

Based on observations of the power nodes, we are proposing a shift in dependencies, relating to three assets: environmental, economic and social one. Unlike the official GBA proposal, our focus is driven by the silent stakeholders, especially the immigrants from rural parts.

We think, that the current discourse is giving little attention to the weakest people, and the observed development is prioritizing middle class over low income communities. We want to use the existing environmental layer as a canvas to create more harmonious living and working conditions for everyone.


Dongguan-Nansha Vision

Intervention 1 - Dongguan-Nansha

The first intervention that we chose is the downstream area of Dongguan-Nansha. We chose it for the extraordinary complexity of the water network and due to the diverse character of the opposite riverbanks.

Our vision for Nansha is to transform it into a new technological cluster of mixed living, working, and natural space by reshaping the riverbanks. By introducing more green and blue spaces into the urban corridors, we aim to create a symbiotic livable space for people.

For Dongguan, to strengthen its adaptability for climate change, we free some parts of the riverbank for the ecological purpose, making it softer to resist the impact of flooding and salinization. Besides, by transforming some low-end industries to the high-end ones, the target is to develop cleaner and coherent industrial clusters.

Moreover, having observed the current tendencies of the transformation of industries into high-tech ones, we cannot ignore the absolutely crucial role that low skill workers always play in every society. We want to empower them and their work and integrate both high and low skills workers in the cities equally, meaning that they will share eco and public services.

Meso, micro, nano and detail scale design. Made by authors.

Huizhou Vision

Intervention 2 - Huizhou

The second area of intervention is the Huizhou, one of a few upstream areas in the GBA region that didn’t experience expansive development. It is particularly interesting as it lies in the water scarce part of the Delta, but at the same time it is a critical node for water distribution to Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

Under the policy of developing a new high-tech core specializing in the development of the internet, electronic information, logistics, and biotechnology from the Chinese government, we also combine the natural restoration ambition in our urban regeneration process.

By enlarging the wetland and recreating the transitional water banks, we can boost the biodiversity in the Tonghu Wetland area.

Meanwhile, we introduce the algae production and processing industrial chain to extract the contamination left by the old labor-intensive industry and in this way provide clean water resources for Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

Moreover, we think about different actors in the whole development loop to attract migrants of different educational and skill backgrounds to Huizhou.

In this sense, we aim to create a more diversified livable space for both humans and nature.

Meso, micro, nano and detail scale design. Made by authors.

Shenzhen-Hong Kong Border Zone Vision. 

Intervention 3 - The border zone (Shenzhen River)

The last intervention is of a completely different character. It tackles sensitive issues of two identities, that are poetically meeting on two sides of a Shenzhen river. From the water perspective, it is interesting as it presents one of the densest networks in the bay area, but at the same time, this resource cannot sustain enormous demands that the city of Zhenzhen posed.

The transformation of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border is mainly implemented in three steps.

The first stage strategy is to reshape the structure of water. Due to the shortage of water in Shenzhen, it is particularly important to effectively use water resources. It can be achieved by water decentralization, by using water landscapes to purify, infiltrate and store water for further use.

The strategy of the second stage is to provide more employment opportunities for migrants, such as technical work such as the maintenance of water landscapes, water resources management, or service industries such as catering and logistics so that Shenzhen can retain immigrants to some extent.

In the third stage, after the return of Hong Kong, through the connection of infrastructure and green corridors, the exchange of information, people and knowledge will be strengthened and enhance the integration of two sides.

Meso, micro, nano and detail scale design. Made by authors.


The Megaregion of harmony and balance

The SymbioCity proposal explores globalization perspectives within its paradigm of multifunctional regions, linking economic development with social and environmental perspectives through urban design and planning. The aim of the SymbioCity proposal is to explore a new balance and harmony between the informal built and natural environment of the GBA.

Proposing new collaboration models that focus on symbiosis between the extensive ecological system, such as the Delta, industries and the large workforce. Leading to more inclusive regional development on all scales. Our research highlights the importance of cooperative polycentric expansion models.

The SymbioCity framework achieves balance and harmony between economies, society, and the environment through harnessing the hidden ecological social informal powers of the existing developing mega region. All in all resulting in to a symbiotic and highly-developed mega region that is ready to go beyond 2030.