Nansha: Rethinking Urbanism and Landscape in the Pearl River Delta

The Pearl River Delta in southern China is a notorious demonstration of the urban effects of rapid economic development. On the east bank, the Special Economic Zones of Shenzhen and Donghuan have produced a dense and chaotic urban landscape. On bulldozed land, factories, high-rise housing, and hotels crowd together along massive freeways. With the recent expansion of Guanzhou\’s urban boundaries, the west bank is slated for even more intensive development. The single barrier to this intensive urbanization is Nansha Island. Owned by the Fok Foundation, Nansha\’s 22 sq. kilometers lie at the geographic heart of the Pearl River Delta. The Fok Foundation is developing Nansha as an experimental city – an alternative to the frenzied development taking place in the rest of the region. Conceived as an urban and architectural laboratory, Nansha has been under construction since 1990, and currently contains a wildly diverse collection of buildings and landscapes. Traditional Suzhou and French baroque gardens surround sleek glass highrises. A temple to the Goddess of the Fishermen abuts a modern IT park. Unreclaimed quarries surround a popular golf club. A hyper-contemporary museum and luxurious five star hotel attract visitors from Hong Kong and Guanzhou. Unsure of its future direction, the Fok Foundation has asked us to evaluate its earlier experiments and chart a new course for the next stages of development. The studio will produce multiple scenarios for Nansha\’s future, including strategic plans, landscape infrastructure, and designs for housing and other buildings.