Mapping Sponge Cities in the Pearl River Delta

Course code: 4715/7343

Course Title: Mapping Sponge Cities in the Pearl River Delta

Following the deadly Beijing Floods in 2012, discussions in urban planning and design shifted to alternative solutions for urban flood management in existing cities, especially in the context of increased storm patterns due to climate change. President Xi Jinping announced a new urban concept—the Sponge City—at the 2013 Central Working Conference of Urbanization (中央城鎮化工作會議) that changes the current instinct to move rainwater immediately from the cities through pipes and drains, to creating spaces that absorb rain like a sponge to lessen urban floods downstream. In 2016, thirty pilot cities received significant central funding to retrofit their drainage infrastructure through this new program.

This course follows the Sponge City Movement in the Pearl River Delta and understands landscape as a receptacle where socio-political processes and technological experiments of watershed governance are physically inscribed in the spaces and materiality of the city. Following an introduction in Hong Kong regarding the theoretical and technical aspects of landscape infrastructure, students will visit pilot Sponge City projects in Shenzhen and Guangzhou to study how the implementation of this alternative form of infrastructure impacts everyday urban life.

Projects include:

  • The Fragmentation of Sponge City Planning
  • The Study of Nanshan District Land Use and Sponge Design System
  • Impact Assessment of Sponge City Urban Renewal
  • Design for “Sponge-city”

Staging Water Urbanisms: Landscape infrastructure for Changan Township, Guangdong

Course Title: Staging Water Urbanisms: Landscape infrastructure for Changan Township, Guangdong

This three-week research and design workshop examines the land reclamation and hydrologic infrastructure of Chang’an Township on the southern edge of Dongguan bordering Shenzhen. It acknowledges the layered histories of urban development and planning within Chang’an, its disjointed relationship to the urbanization of its neighbors, and the environmental transformation resulting from a complex conflict in the management of water infrastructure. The workshop considers the hydrologic infrastructures as “staging grounds” for urbanism, working carefully with existing material, social, and ecological conditions while speculating on the future of Chang’an in light of its current planning efforts. Through ethnographic research, case study analysis, and interdisciplinary discussions with engineers and planners, students explore the potentials of engineered landscape in the cultural, social, and economic production of the territory. Students create a set of transects focusing on four primary natural and artificial waterways in Chang’an:

(T1) URBAN WATER – Changqing River and Maozhou River;
(T2) MANAGING WATER – Huanshan Channel and Xinmin Channel;
(T3) WATER ECOLOGIES – Shachong River, Dongyin River and Sanba River;
(T4) PLANNING FOR WATER  –  Dongyin River and Modie River.

Research Teams:
T1: MOK Siu Man; LI Aijing; POON Yan Lam
T2: LAW Wai Yan; NWE Saw Yu; ZOU Wen Yao
T3: CHAN Lok; LEE Yin Chik; MAK Sui Hin
T4: CHONG Ying Monica; SHUM Hiu Lam