Adaptive Urban Transformation

Territorial governance, spatial strategy and urban landscape dynamics in the Pearl River Delta

About the project

This joint research project concerns planning and management for more resilient urban deltas, and in particular, adaptation of the dynamics of urban deltas to address increasing flood risk.
The project evaluates innovative territorial governance as an approach to create spatial strategies that may unlock the adaptation options, especially by integrating urban planning and water management, and engaging with stakeholders.

The overall aim of the research is to develop an integrative and multiscale design and planning approach for adaptive urban transformation in fast-urbanizing deltas, using the Pearl River Delta as case study.

The project will combine work in China, the Netherlands and the UK to:

  • develop a portfolio of integrated adaptation measures based on an assessment of ecological capacity and life cycles of buildings, urban districts and regions.
  • identify potential in territorial governance structures for more integrated approaches and adaptation measures.
  • develop and test innovative 3D visualisation techniques that facilitate participatory, multi-stakeholder planning approaches.

For the first time, established and regular urban transformation processes will be used as opportunities to adapt systems in urbanized deltas at relatively low costs.

Furthermore, the research will identify institutional, cultural and financial innovations that are needed in territorial governance to steer the development of urban and rural areas towards more resilient futures.

This research provides a unique approach that integrates research in urban landscape systems, territorial governance and visualisation techniques that will help to achieve more integrated and resilient deltas.

work packages


Understanding dynamics of
transformation and principles of adaptation


Stakeholder involvement
and visualisation


Application in urban design,
planning and governance

This project enables joint research by Delft University of Technology, Department of Urbanism; South China University of Technology, School of Architecture (China); The University of Sheffield, Department of Landscape (UK).

Funded research

Project Leaders:

Dr Steffen Nijhuis (TUD), Prof Yimin Sun (SCUT), Prof Eckart Lange (UoS).

The project team consists of about 12-15 professors, post-docs and PhD-candidates.


NSFC, NWO and EPSRC Sustainable Deltas Program (grant no. ALWSD 2016.013)

Adaptive Urban Transformation


Work packages

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