Urban Designer, Architect and Researcher

Shenshan New City 2nd Prize Winner

International restricted competition

  • Site: ShenShan, Shenzhen, China

  • Program: 8500ha, new rurban community, housing, CBD, TOD, mobility strategy

  • Status: 2nd Place winner, ongoing

  • In colaboration with: Guallart Architects, MIC Mobility in Chain

2nd Place in the Internation Consultation on Conceptual Urban Design for Shenshan Special Cooperation Zone Central Area

Shenshan is the new Shenzhen district that will be built in an area which is rich in agriculture and rural social life and offers an opportunity to rethink cities. The district will be sited between Shenzhen and Shanwei, after the settlement of a new high-speed train connection.




Shenzhen has based its development on rapid urbanization, ensuring the continuity of avenues and high-speed highways for the private vehicle, limiting pedestrian mobility between blocks to small elevated footbridges. The urban structure of Shenzhen is formed by a structure of superposed blocks of an average dimension of 1.5x1.5 km. That allows to create any type of interior frame able to accommodate purely residential space, spaces for offices, industrial parks or even golf courses. From this structure, it is now trying to recover its original natural networks that linked the mountains with the sea, through water structures.
Shenshan is the opportunity to overcome this model and build a development that originates in the definition of the corridors to preserve and start from, the settlements to be urbanized are defined, so that the continuity of the ecological services networks is guaranteed now and in the future. In this way the chain of districts and the chains of agricultural parks that build the spatial and functional structure of Shenshan are intertwined.



While in Shenzhen the city has been urbanized and now they want to rebuild the original natural ecosystems, The Ville-on-Chain project is a binary chain of 8 agro-parks and 12 urban districts, spatially intertwined with each other creating an enhanced balance between city and nature. The original villages, act as acupuncture points of the dual chains, are kept and morphed into new hybrids, either urban village or village in agri-park. The new high speed
train station, at the crossing point of the dual chains, is the core knotting the dense urbanity and the rich agriculture landscape. A water channel followed eco corridor system connects the mountain groups to the sea front.

The Ville-on-Chain project is a binary chain of 8 agro-parks and 12 urban districts spatially interwined with each other creating an enhanced balance between city and nature.





The overall mobility strategy for the masterplan is based on creating a rich and sustainable urban environment, decreasing to a minimum the impact of private traffic, promoting public
transport and shared green modes. The best strategy to minimize traffic congestion and the use of private car, is to multiply the mobility choices for the users and to guarantee a reliable public transport system with a set of interconnected modes thought for all movements: from long-haul to last-mile trips. This will be achieved following the guidelines of a human-scale
transit oriented development, by making sure that the majority of people and jobs are within walking distance from a transit stop. This will contribute to the creation of walkable and sustainable districts, centred around pedestrians and high quality public
transport rather than on cars.

The public transport will cater to different mobility speeds, from the high-speed train, the rapid bus network and the neighbourhood bus mini loops, fostering a model of a fast-connected slow city.



The high-speed train station will be located at the intersection of the dual chains establishing the core, knotting the dense urbanity and the rich agriculture landscape. Each district and agro-park will have a special structure attuned to its context and a differentiated mission to create a balance between urban and agricultural nodes.

District 1 is the center of the northern subdistrict and is founded to the south of the intermodal train station of high velocity, intercity, BRT and taxi, being the node with the best communication of Shenshan. The spatial organization is structured with an orotogonal grid, which organizes all the residential, commercial and neighborhood facilities such as schools, institute, hospitals, library, for its residents as well as some of the metropolitan scale sports facilities. In its perimeter are green areas, environmental corridors and agricultural areas that make it even more interesting and add more value to the Shenzhen CBD. The station has the shape of the hills that have been necessary to demolish to build the district.


The agro-parks will protect the rural landscape while the villages will act as acupuncture points of the dual chains, which are morphed into new hybrids, either as an urban village or as a rural village.




District 8 will follow the principles of traditional Chinese settlements, creating a green axis with water, surrounded by administrative and cultural buildings and a municipal government building that expresses the open nature of the project.

District 8 is the center of the southern sub-district and hosts the administrative center of Shenshan. Its layout follows the traditional principles of feng-shui protecting itself from the north winds on a mountain and opening to the south, towards the sea. The district has an orthogonal mesh N / S, covered with a central avenue-park, which will have permanent activity with cultural, social and administrative buildings of different height and form. This avenue also houses the underground station of the intercity train that connects with Shenzhen and the high-speed station located to the north and is crossed by the LOOP line of BRT.



If we want to develop a way of life with a mixed-use city, where poeple can live, work and rest we have to apply these principles to the three scales of the city, in order thart the whole flow of urban functions, mobility and urban services, be consistent
Therefore, we have to create a model at three levels:
Level 1: Street Block
Level 2: Mix Use Neigborhood
Level 3: Living and working Urban District
In the case of Shenshan the city plans to have 1,500,000 and may grow up to 2,500,000. The two central districts, where their most relevant facilities are located, will have 650,000 inhabitants.


In the case of the densification of the existing village the objective will be:
1. Maintain current residents and attract new inhabitants such as young people or students
2. Promote the urban model of mixed uses, with commercial and cultural activity
And for that
3. It will be allowed to increase the density of the existing grids, when the width of the streets allows it.
4. Mixed-use urban plots will be built around it

The city making of Shenshan provides a perfect opportunity of not repeating the mistakes of the urbanization of Shenzhen again.
The lessons are:
1. Neglect the eco structure: urbanizing the area first, then realize it misses the mountain is green corridor.
2. Neglect the social value of urban village: shenzhen has 1,427 urban villages, which host the population of nearly 10 million, almost 50% of shenzhen population. in the historical shenzhen expansion, the city encloses the urban villages, which become islands in the city. due to the lack of land, shenzhen keeps demolishing the urban villages to exchange for real estate development for housing. The remaining urban villages will face the same destiny in the end.

Therefore, the city making of Shenshan could be the reverse process, i.e. the making of Shenzhen is the city expansion to swallow the villages; then Shenshan is village + eco / nature “swallow / encircle” the urban districts, i.e. village formed city link, or, ville-on-chain, creating a new spatial typology of hyper urban-rural mix, a soft, elastic, resilient, resistant urbanization strategy retaining the quality essence of the villeggiatura (village + eco + health work and life style) in the hyper connected urban age.



The territory of Shenshan contains a wonderful mixture of a river territory, mountains and hills, an intense rural society settled in villages and an active agriculture, creating landscapes typical of each of these ecotones.
In the analysis carried out, it has been studied which landscapes to preserve, in order to guarantee the conitnudiad of ecological systems and rural passages.
In this way, corridors of passivity and ecology have been created to guarantee that, although in the future, Shenezhen will extend and join with Shenshan, in the corer of the new city, part of its agricultural territories and natural landscapes will prevail.



If more than 50% of the current urban agricultural area will continue to exist after carrying out the urbanization process, it is essential to preserve the existing rural roads and their associated water networks, in order to provide continuity to the rural villages and their inhabitants as well as to new buildings that will accommodate environmentally compatible functions.
The rural roads will follow the following principles:
- They will have a minimum dimension of 5 meters
- They will guarantee the connectivity of all agricultural plots with rural villages.
- They should connect with the avenues and border roads of the new districts
- When crossing the center of the ecological corridors, they must cross by means of an elevated or underground passage with the avenues or highways.
- The lighting will be produced by beacons, to preserve the rural character of the roads.
- Connect buildings that incorporate new functions to agricultural land, guaranteeing a minimum parking for them.



In a city of new generation that is mixing the best of ecological world and the best of digital technologies, building must define new standards of excellence. The definition of building form follows the overall urban principles applied to the different districts. It has been defined 6 building block types.


The open space is designed following the principles of 4 continuities described for all projects. All the districts have been designed as a walkeable district, with the reference in the north from the High Speed train station.

The grid structure allows a clear orientation and a permanent reference to the mountains and territory around the district.

Its maximum height is 100 meters, to preserve the vision of the surrounding hills, with the exception of the central zone of the CBD that will reach 150 meters.

In district 1 can be recognized the three scales of the mixed-use city model of 3 levels: LEVEL 1: Street Block of 100x200 m; LEVEL 2: Mix Use Neigborhood 800x800; LEVEL 3: Living and working Urban District of 1500x1500


The park located in front of the municipal building is crossed by a water channel and is occupied by a series of lagoons, tree plantations and umbraccles, which shows the importance of water in history and the future of the Shenshan territory. The avenue crosses the administrative boundary to the north and connects with the central mountain of the city, which can be accessed by a path that leads to a viewpoint and finally to the top, which is the central eye of the city.

The main administrative building of the City Council, has a tree structure, which acts as a protective and productive forest, under which are located the different municipal facilities that are built in aggregate form, following the distributed urban model of Shenshan, with transparent materials to manifest the open, efficient and public nature of the administration.



The buildings of an ecological city should be ecological. Therefore, the use of ecological materials in the facades (such as wood or brick), the incorporation of plant elements, as well as the development of self-sufficient buildings, new distributed water and energy management models, are encouraged.


If we are able to define a new model of urban development that enables cities to co-exist with, and enhance rural life, we will create in Shenshan a new blueprint for the next generation of ecological cities.    



Guallart Architects

Project leaders: Vicente Guallart, Honorata Grzesikowska, Yang Lei Project Development: Barcelona team: Firas Safieddine, Daniele Fiore, Tugay Yilmaz, Alperen Asim Akbas, Nanchana Subhanka, Prodpran Opasniputh, Dongliang Ye, Alina Sebastian, Samrakshana Suresh , Saagarika Atlanta Dias, Rachel George

Rendering team: Play-Time Architectural Imagery

Animation team: Firas Safieddine

Video production and Music : Leon Guallart Díaz

Transportation Consultants: MIC Mobility in Chain