Category: Urban Design & Research
Principal Architect: Meng Yan

Chief Curators for Shenzhen-Hong Kong Urbanism\ Architecture Bi-City Biennale 2017 (Urbanism + Architecture Section, Shenzhen): MENG Yan, LIU Xiaodu

Urban Design Stage
Project Manager: Lin Yilin  |  Project Team: Li Congyi, Liu Kan, Zhang Xuejuan, Wendy Wu | Tian Lin, Zheng Na, Wang Yifan, Han Siying (Internship)

Building Renovation Stage
Project General Manager: Lin Yilin | Project Manager: Zang Min | Project Architect: Rao Enchen, Milutin Cerovic
Architecture Design Team: You Donghe, Jiang Qingzhou, Liu Kan, Zheng Zhi, Chen Hui, Li Congyi, Liao Mengjun, Shen Chen, Zhang Chaoxian | Yang Haozhou, Xiao Shihao, Weng Yongqi, Cao Jun (Internship)
Landscape Design Team: Wei Zhijiao | Li Guanda, Xu Xiao | Cai Qi, Liu Yunong, Han Ke (Internship)


Shenzhen has long been portrayed through an urban myth as a “small fishing village” that grew into a prosperous metropolis in less than 40 years; however, Shenzhen was in reality never just a “small fishing village”. Indeed, located in the central area of the city, Nantou Old Town was founded during the Jin Dynasty and served as the political, military, and economic centre of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong region until the founding of the People’s Republic of China; a history that has spanned more than 1700 years. In the past century, the ancient town has gradually vanished, while the village has continuously expanded. The exacerbation of urbanization in Shenzhen has resulted in a complex pattern of a historical town embedded within an urban village, which is again encircled by the modern city.

At the beginning of 2016, URBANUS started to become involved in the Nantou Preservation and Regeneration Project and concluded that only by respecting and preserving the authenticity of the history can we shape a timelessly dynamic urban community, rooted in local history and culture. We see today’s Nantou not as an old historic town in the traditional sense, but as a historical heritage town that carries on the history and culture of nearly two thousand years, and which preserves the spatial, social and cultural heritage of Shenzhen across every historical period. It is the only precious sample of Shenzhen’s urban culture that displays both millennia of cultural heritage alongside all the optical spectacle of China’s rapid urbanization over the last three decades.

We first proposed a development model of promoting the rejuvenation of the ancient city with the guidance of an intervention, promoting the revival with cultural activities and the gradual activation from a starting point to the broader area. Then as the curator, we timely introduced Nantou as the main venue of  the “2017 Shenzhen-Hong Kong Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism / Architecture” (UABB) . Further field surveys and research into Nantou’s historical documents helped us to find a narrative line on which spatial renovation and the exhibition implementation could highly coincide. We sought to reconstruct a public open space system, something very rare in Nantou. The urban intervention of 2017 UABB is highly consistent with the old town regeneration plan, making a smooth transition from one to the other.


Baode Square: Reconstruction of the center of the old town

“Baode Square” is located at the centre of the old town’s main intersection. The plaza’s basketball court terrazzo floor was once the threshing venue of the Nantou Community in the 1970s. We persuaded the village to agree to have the two temporary tin commercial structures by the plaza transformed into a communal public area for activities. The two buildings’ new roofs will become viewing steps that descend to the sides of the plaza, integrating the architecture with its surroundings, yet still showing subtle differences. Together with the numerous windows, balconies and roofs of the surrounding residential building, the new architecture creates a three-dimensional urban theatre which invites locals to sit and hang out, enjoying the daily occurrence of colorful, lively urban drama.


Creative Lab and Market Plaza

In the 1980s, a large number of factories in rural Shenzhen were built and rented out, increasing the income of villagers as well as providing more jobs. Nantou factory has a construction area of over 14,000 square meters and was thus selected as the main exhibit space of the Biennale. The horizontal window strips, tinted glass, dry clay, white tiles, as well as colourful mosaics on the facade of the architecture are classic, representative materials from the 1980s and 90s; these original elements are preserved with only one layer of addition in the form of a mural on the wall of the old factory. A temporary metal scaffolding was removed from the plaza on the east side of the factory and the replacement, designed by NADAAA, is a lightweight structure with a translucent ceiling. On the interior, the first floor of the central part of the plant is made open, with also a section of the fence removed to connect the west alleyway, Dajiale  Public Stage, and Zhongshan Park. Lastly, the very bottom of the plant is then designed to connect with the outdoor plaza to create an open market street, which would become a new, creative living area in the long run.


From Dajiale Public Stage to Open Theater

With the rapid industrialization progress of Shenzhen, the “Dajiale Public Stages” were built across the city of Shenzhen in order to fulfill the cultural needs of young people’s spare time in the early stage of Shenzhen’s working culture. Under the existing steel roof truss, three sloped seating areas are placed in the auditorium to not only enhance the facility and atmosphere of the performance, but also to create an informal and dramatic space. Around the roof truss is a liftable fabric curtain system which allows for all kinds of formal or informal, interior or exterior gathering events to take place at the same venue. As a result of the substantial involvement the Biennale had in urban transformation, the use of this multi-purposed “Dajiale Public Stage” shall be extended and integrated into the daily life of local residents after the exhibition.

The2017 Biennale provides an alternative opportunity for the experimental regeneration of Nantou Old Town as well as the revitalization of the urban village. URBANUS has intervened in the regeneration of the historical town by the strategy of “city curation”. By reshaping the cultural and spatial context of Nantou, a sense of belonging and community awareness of the local residents can be evoked, ultimately in hopes of providing an alternative prototype for the regeneration of Shenzhen’s urban villages.


Client: Nanshan District Government, Shenzhen
Location: Nantou Old Town, Shenzhen

Urban Design Stage

Client: Nanshan District Culture and Sports Bureau, Shenzhen
Project Period: 2016    Site Area: 282,637 ㎡

Building Renovation Stage

Construction agency: Shum Yip Land Investment & Development Co., LTD. (Shenzhen)
Project Period: 2016 – 2017   Site Area: 38,150㎡    Floor Area:12,485 ㎡    Landscape Area: 24,469㎡
Collaborators: Tsinghua-Yuan Architecture and Planning Design and Research LTD. Shenzhen (Construction Design)
Shenzhen Republic Design & Engineering Co., Ltd. (Interior Construction Design)

Images©UABB, ©URBANUS, ©Wu Qingshan         
Photographers: Zhang Chao, Wu Qingshan, URBANUS


Related Project: Nantou Hybrid Building

Link for curator section:
2017 SZ-HK Urbanism\ Architecture Bi-City Biennale (Shenzhen)

孟岩访谈. 他打通1000㎡逼仄居民楼,造空中花园. 一条公众号. 2022.11.22
UABB held in urban villages for the first time. Art China. 2017
Nantou Old Town in Metropolis. 2017UABB. 

2021 City for Humanity Awards 2020 –Public Space & Community Revitalization – Shortlisted
2020 THE PLAN AWARD Special Projects Winner (Completed)
2020 ASC Architectural Award – Urban Design – First Prize 
2019 International Urban Project Award (IUPA) Special Prize
2018 Organizing Committee Award of the 7th Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture Excellent Works Award

刘刊,陈瑾羲. 叠合、杂糅与共生之下深圳南头杂交楼的城村之策. 时代建筑2022(5) 92-103
URBANUS都市实践. 南头古城在深圳特区的40年. 都市实践公众号. 2020-08-15
孟岩 林怡琳 饶恩辰. 村/城重生 城市共生下的深圳南头实践. TA. 2018(3):58-64
都市实践.城市即展场,展览即实践. 风景园林. 2018(4):53-59
都市实践. 城市策展与更新:深圳南头古城改造. 有方建筑网站. 2018.09.05
都市实践. 南头古城+双年展展场改造,深圳. 谷德设计网. 2018.08.31
URBANUS. Renovation of Nantou Old Town and Architectural Design of UABB Venue, China. gooood website. 2018.08.31
URBANUS. Urban Design and Research of Nantou Old Town + Architectural Design of UABB Venue. Archdaily website. 2018.08.18
都市实践. 南头古城城市设计与研究+双年展展场改造. Archdaily建筑网站. 2018.08.06
董超媚. 当展览进入城中村,未来的城市是否有了更多的可能?. 中国台湾版《时代建筑》. 2018(06):18-21
Herbert Wright. UABB Shenzhen 2017. Blueprint 2018(3)172-173

URBANUS @ 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB)

Interviews & Lectures:
拆除之外,城中村的另一种可能性是什么?. 三联生活周刊公众号. 2020-10-16
城市拯救计划:给乏味的城市“添点儿乱”. 新周刊. 2020-06-11
孟岩 | 城村共生,中国城市的另一种未来图景. SELF格致论道讲坛. 2020-04-08