Border Ecologies

Department: Architecture
Research Centre: Rural Urban Lab;
Active Dates: January 2013 - September 2016

Principal Investigator: Joshua BOLCHOVER (PI), Peter HASDELL (Co-PI)
Funding body: GRF


Hong Kong’s border with Shenzhen is incrementally dissolving. By 2047, 50 years after the 1997 handover of Hong Kong the border will no longer exist. This also will mean the dissolution of the economic and political zones of the “One Country Two Systems” policy; significantly the Special Administration Region of Hong Kong and the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen. As part of the re-integration process serious considerations need to be made concerning the potential impact this will have on the urban development of both sides of the border as well as the larger impact this may have on the entire Pearl River Delta region.

As part of this re-integration in 2011 the Hong Kong Government will redraw the boundary of the Frontier Closed Area allowing almost 2,000 hectares of land to be openly accessible to the public as well as being available for potential development. The Frontier Closed Area was created in 1951 as a buffer zone to control migration and crime from the mainland. Since then the land has remained untouched by urban development – very little has changed in over fifty years. This is in stark contrast to the rapid urbanization that has taken place directly adjacent to this area in Shenzhen which has seen the city develop from a fishing village with a population of 200,000 in 1982 to over 11 million today. The Frontier Closed Area, as well as being a testament to what Shenzhen used to be like, contains a rich landscape of eco-systems, (including the RAMSAR site), fish farms, fresh water streams, primary forests as well as historic villages and abandoned military posts.


The research project has 3 main aims:

  1. To understand the border region as part of a larger urban ecology existing between the cities of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. To examine specific processes of urbanization that have occurred within the zone and to understand the forces that will play a role in determining the future of the border area.
  2. To propose an urban strategy for the Frontier Closed Area that engages with the specific relationships that exist across the border to make a proposal that is mutually beneficial to both Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
  3. To position Hong Kong’s unique border condition within a larger frame of academic discourse on border studies.


The development of an urban strategy that will be shared with Department of Urban Planning and Design.


  • Joshua Bolchover and Peter Hasdell, Border Ecologies: Hong Kong’s Mainland Frontier, Birkhauser 2016.
  • Joshua Bolchover, “Border Stories: Opening Hong Kong’s Frontier Territory”, in Open Cities: The New Post-Industrial World Order, ACSA International Conference, June 21-23, 2014.
  • Joshua Bolchover and Peter Hasdell, Metabolic Urbanism: City as Process in Global Visions: Risks and Opportunities for the Urban Planet, Adriana Gonzales Brun, Boon Liang Low, Jürgen Rosemann, Johannes Widodo eds., CASA (Centre for Advanced Studies in Architecture), National University of Singapore, 2011 (ISBN 978-981-08-8159-7).
  • Joshua Bolchover and Peter Hasdell, “Opening the Frontier Closed Area: A Mutual Benefit Zone” in The New Urban Question: Urbanism beyond Neo-Liberalism, eds. Jurgen Rosemann, Lei Qu, Diego Sepulveda, International Forum on Urbanism, Rotterdam, 2009. (ISBN 978-90-78658-09-2).

Anticipated Impact

To influence how urban planning is conducted in the FCA. To impact the discourse of micro-borders within the contemporary city.

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