Densely-populated cities tirelessly struggle to find space to meet the needs of a megalopolis. One thriving region in Shenzhen, China has dealt with its spectacular growth in a highly innovative way — converting an underutilized rooftop into an educational, sports and recreational hub for the young and active population that inhabit the city. 

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A narrow strip filled with green space and sport fields

The growth happened quickly, transforming a former fishing village into a population of nearly 17 million in the past four decades. With the young average age of the population and the mild year-round climate, recreational zones and green spaces are an essential element of the community. But land is rare. So the government decided to turn a typically off-limits space into a public arena. Now the 1.2 kilometer roof of the southern terminal and depot building of Shenzhen’s Metro Line 2 has become a space that addresses multiple issues in the area.

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A close up of a soccer field and basketball court

The architects at Crossboundaries partnered with the Shenzhen Nanshan District Government to create distinct zones in the development. One addresses the need for outdoor activity space to serve nearby schools. Another provides outdoor green space for the community. A third area is for professional sports training and competitions. Already strategically located to serve as a major ferry, bus, car and train hub, the building below is used for maintaining trains and contains administrative spaces.

An aerial view of a green space strip

Redesigning the roof space resulted in minimal site impact and makes use of otherwise wasted real estate. In addition, the development enhanced the surrounding neighborhood with inward views of the green spaces and better access to the nearby bay.  

A closeup of the soccer field next to a basketball court

The finished project now houses space for sports, competitions and supporting facilities. It also supports nature-related activities, including tennis courts, basketball courts, fields, tracks, volleyball training areas, soccer fields, community areas and more.

A track area looking toward a soccer field

“We were confronted with very exceptional circumstances,” said Hao Dong, co-founder and partner at Crossboundaries. “In China, infrastructure and traffic-related areas usually belong to the government and are not meant to be assigned any public use at all. This elongated rooftop presented itself with huge potential to be transformed into a usable park, accessible to a wider public and enriching the urban environment around it.”

A curved walkway that is risen above a grassy area

Pathways weave between the areas, each represented by a different material to designate the purpose. Most of the pedestrian walkway is paved with stone, while the leisure trail is mostly covered with timber. The sports track features a rubber surface.

A strip of green space filled with spaces to walk and places to play

In addition to a focus on outdoor activities, designers honor the environment through the use of an abundance of wood and green design. Buildings, bridges and rails offer copious natural light. While greenery inside and outside supplies natural shading and drainage. 

A silhouette of the city skyline in the background while fenced sport courts are in the foreground

“Our linear park is like a missing puzzle that plugs into the neighboring communities,” said Binke Lenhardt, co-founder of Crossboundaries. “It creates the necessary physical and visual link between the urban tissue and the seaside and, along the way, aims to satisfy the schools’ and the public’s ever growing need for recreational spaces and room to breathe in a dense, urban environment.”

+ Crossboundaries

Photography by BAI Yu