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Nature as Leverage · Shenshan Special Cooperation Zone of Shenzhen Municipality, China

Nature-based design for a resilient coastline


The plan ‘Nature as leverage’ is nature-based design program, seamlessly blending mountain, sea, and land development across a project area of 19 square kilometres. It is the outcome of a collaboration with MLA+, combining forces to pay homage to the rich Chinese historical water strategy, while interweaving it with the Dutch approach, resulting in a unique vision for coastal landscapes. The plan was declared winner of the competitive tender in 2019, and has since been adopted as foundation for further development initiatives.

Shenshan Special Cooperation Zone of Shenzhen Municipality, China
Project area
1900 ha
IFLA AAPME International Outstanding Awards 2020, Greater Bay Area Urban Design Grand Awards 2020

Green-blue heart of Shenzhen

The project envisions a balance between ecology, development and economy, without compromising any of those elements, by designing a nature-led development. Three design strategies, addressing Ecology & Protection, Coastal Urbanisation and Infrastructure & Experience form an integrated approach to creating a resilient area.


The design process resulted in a series of future-proof coastal defence works in which technology and landscape design are integrated. This creates a lively succession of protected spaces along the beautiful 12-kilometre-long coast. Marine and freshwater strategies create space for buffer zones that prioritise protection and ecology, restore existing ecosystems and create a ‘sponge development’ that enhances the quality and resilience of nature and urban space: an elastic landscape. The new green-blue heart of Shenzhen.



The Shenshan coastal area project has been honoured with the Outstanding Award by the 2020 IFLAA AAPME International Awards and the 2020 Greater Bay Area Urban Design Awards (Grand Award). Over the years we have worked on many projects combining interventions for coastal protection with optimising development potential and natural resilience. A diversity of coastal projects around the world has led to a flexible approach that can be both visionary and practical but is always bespoke to the specifics of the situation.


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