Architects VenhoevenCS have won a major riverside redevelopment in Shenzhen, China. They hope to protect large areas of land from flooding while also creating a vibrant new urban identity for the Bao’an district.

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A house sitting next to a river

The Pailao River Blueway Project constitutes a new biodiverse landscape along the central Pailoa River, an area under rapid urban development where rainfall intensity is increasing. Architects are using this project to design with the water instead of against it. It includes elements such as ponds, green roofs, urban farming plots, wetlands and soft banks, contributing to a natural sponge effect to absorb excess water from the river.

Related: 100-year-old railway yard turned into a green space

A highway that rises above a green space with a railway within the green space

VenhoevenCS also has their sights set on integrating urban regeneration in the area. They have planned cultural and social spaces, including pavilions and parks for cyclists and pedestrians. The design illustrates their nature-inclusive approach, reshaping how humans and the natural environment interact in designed environments.

Chairs and a green space next to a river

With experience designing for climate change induced water issues in the Netherlands, VenhoevenCS Architects approached similar conditions currently affecting the subtropical Bao’an Water District in the same way.

A map of the plan with a cut of the river on the left and the expanse of green covering most of the map

To redesign the waterway, the team created something called The Blueway Project, which takes into account the landscape far beyond the immediate area. A surrounding network of rivers flows to the sea through dense
urban areas. The Blueway Project looked at the urban spaces, re-greening of surrounding natural areas and the flow of the rivers to design a space that holds room for nature. It will have fewer cars moving through the area, so less pavement and parking, but still allows Bao’an to be accessible with mobility hubs and public transportation and a way through for local traffic.

(Left to right) A green space with a river next to it, the river flooding up due to currents

The concrete quays of the Pailao River will be replaced by wide, soft banks that absorb water naturally. Various parks will punctuate the riverfront and create space for pedestrians. Bridges for traffic now feature new meeting places and public spaces for gatherings underneath the viaducts. Water levels may ebb and flow here, so pavilions for public gatherings are designed on stilts to accommodate changing conditions.

+ VenhoevenCS Architects

Images via Shenzhen Hope Design Co., Ltd.