Adaptive Urban Transformation

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 in SeaLife.
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:

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 Package 1 : Understanding the dynamics of transformation and principles of adaptation

This WP focuses on developing new techniques and approaches to better inform decision-makers and stakeholders in participatory processes on the potential of integrated adaptation measures and potential of adaptation planning. The WP asks:

The WP will employ innovative GIS-based explorative mapping methods and operations (e.g. map dissection, spatial association analysis, map comparison and automated analysis) to explain the relation between local and larger scale dynamics in the past and present.

These will be used as a basis for incremental and transformative options for developing adaptive capacity.

The first level of dynamics to be addressed is related to the natural environment and is characterized by a slow, almost imperceptible, process of change, repetition and natural cycles at the scale of the region or beyond. The second level of dynamics is related to the long-term social, economic and cultural history at the middle scale.

The third level of dynamics is that of short-term developments, related to stakeholders and politics at the local scale. Based on this understanding eco-dynamic (regional) design strategies are explored to provide opportunities for nature in urban development processes. Furthermore adaptive principles are identified that ensure water safety and inclusive socio-ecological design.

WP1 provides input for WP3 regarding theoretical backgrounds, mapping and overview of strategies and principles for AUT.

Work Package 2 : Stakeholder involvement and visualization

This WP focuses on developing new techniques and approaches to better inform decision-makers and stakeholders in participatory processes on the potential of integrated adaptation measures and potential of adaptation planning. The WP asks:

This WP focusses on stakeholder involvement and visualisation enabling a multiscale systemic understanding of urban landscape dynamics and transformations through ex-post evaluation of existing urban planning strategies and projects and ex-ante evaluation of scenarios of potential adaptation strategies. Visualisations as stimuli will be integrated into the feedback mechanisms either through a paper-based format and/or via digital means.

In this context 3D-visualisations will be developed for off- site use as well as for on-site use for stakeholder involvement. The envisaged visualisation approaches will build on recent developed innovations2 (e.g. augmented reality app) (Figure 3). This WP develops state-of-the-art immersive visualisations, e.g. for display in a virtual reality lab or for devices such as the Oculus Rift as well as innovative on-site visualisations for use on mobile devices.

Mixed qualitative semi- structured interview approaches will be employed as well as quantitative methods (e.g. semantic differential, willingness-to-pay, contingent valuation) investigating the views of planning and design experts / lay persons as well as considering off-site (laboratory based) versus on-site (mobile devices) feedback and assessment.

Work Package 3 : Application of AUT in urban design, planning and governance

This WP focuses on the application of AUT in urban design, planning and territorial governance in the PRD. Research questions to be addressed in this WP:

Here the Chinese planning system in the PRD is evaluated for its potential to adopt integrative approaches to design, planning and flood risk management for more sustainable and inclusive urbanization.

Through literature review and interviews with different local stakeholders constraints in the current territorial planning and policies are identified that block integrated adaptation measures.

On this basis, the principles of AUT as developed in WP1 will be applied and tested using GIS-based and visualisation technology developed in WP2. The potential of innovative territorial governance will be explored to facilitate cross-sectoral coordination and the development of integrated strategies and designs through inclusive participatory processes involving decision-makers and other stakeholders. It will focus on the potential of connecting economic and ecological development at multiple scales in the international harbour of PRD.

It investigates the sustainable transformation of old industrial/housing areas and the regional agricultural landscape associated with constraints on the expansion of the built-up area to accommodate economic and population growth. These areas possess specific spatial conditions for long term economic development, while at the same time, they are usually located on the newly reclaimed land at the estuaries of the delta, with dense waterways, vast areas of fishing ponds, wetlands and agriculture with highly sensitive ecosystems and very vulnerable to flooding.

The WP investigates the possibilities for the development of regional green-blue infrastructures and city-level water networks, for adaptive capacity, ecosystem services and water safety.

Latest News

Steffen Nijhuis - Interview Les Echos Week-End

Interview on Pearl River Delta in Les Echos Week-End, a weekly magazine by France’s largest business newspaper. Julie Zaugg, Asia correspondent in Hong Kong.

Kick-off project Adaptive Urban Transformation - Guangzhou

30 November 2017 there was a kick-off meeting at South China University of Technology, Guangzhou (China) for the Joint Research Project “Adaptive Urban Transformation (AUT) – Territorial governance, spatial strategy and urban landscape dynamics in the Pearl River Delta” funded by NSFC, NWO and EPSRC.
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) in the Sustainable Deltas Program in the period 2018-2021.

AUT-project meeting, Delft

Consortium meeting NSFC-NWO-EPRSC funded project ‘Adaptive Urban Transformation’ at TU Delft with lectures, workshops and fieldtrips.
TU Delft, SCUT and UoS on adaptive planning and design of the Pearl River Bay Region.

Our Team

Project leaders

Steffen Nijhuis
Steffen Nijhuis

Yimin Sun
Yimin Sun

Eckart Lange

Senior researchers

Daniele Cannatella

Xiaoming Wu

Sigrid Hehl-Lange

Qifeng Yuan

Adam R. Tomkins

Ph.D. candidates

Chen Bilin

Qi Chen

Weibin Lin

Xi Lu

Dai Wei

Yueshan Ma

Liang Xiong






Ph.D. Research

A Multi-scale Study of Stakeholder Participation and Visualisation in Chinese Landscape and Urban Planning: The Case of the Pearl River Delta

Xi Lu
Department of Landscape Architecture | University of Sheffield
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Eckart Lange; Dr. Chengzhi Peng

This research aims to examine stakeholder participation and visualisation in China throughout the multi-scale planning process.

Beginning with the institutional analysis, it scrutinises the legal requirements and visualisation tools for stakeholder participation. The urban planning exhibition hall presents multi-scale planning information through various visualisation displays.

Evaluation of its role in information dissemination and stakeholder participation is carried out using a repeated measures design. The planning standards are intertwined with planning practices, with the emergence of two planning processes: top-down and bottom-up approaches.

Through follow-up case studies during initiation, planning and implementation phases, it seeks to unravel the interrelationship between planning scales, the interaction between stakeholders and the role of visualisation.

Understanding the role of views in homebuyers’ choices with the help of visualisation in Guangzhou, China

Qi Chen
Department of Landscape Architecture | University of Sheffield
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Eckart Lange; Dr. John Henneberry

When homebuyers make homes purchase decisions, a number of factors could influence their choices. This research aims to understand one of the influential factors - views from residential homes.

Questions are raised including which views homebuyers prefer, how much they are willing to pay and why they prefer these views. The research attempts to apply immersive visualisation simulation as a research tool to display views from high-rise apartments in Guangzhou and to unveil participants’ preferences.

By answering these research questions, it is expected that the research could provide implications for stakeholders such as planners, policymakers, developers, etc.

Modeling and analysis of urban green space accessibility in Guangzhou

Yueshan Ma
Department of Landscape Architecture | University of Sheffield
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Eckart Lange; Dr. Paul Brindley

Enough accesses to Urban Green Space (UGS) are crucial for human. However, there are few studies analyzing the perceived and actual UGS accessibility. Therefore, it is necessary to explore the comprehensive accessibility of UGS in urbanized Guangzhou from different aspects.

This research aims at modeling the spatial, the perceived and the close-to-reality accessibility of UGS in which are overlooked by previous researches Then it provides principles on the more reasonable plan of UGS.

For measuring the accessibility, it uses the two-step floating catchment area model in which coefficients will be obtained from questionnaires to get the theoretical accessibility. The perceived accessibility will be modeled via analyzing the data from survey. The close-to-reality accessibility will be modeled by space-time utility-based measure referring to previous studies. All the data used for analysis will be obtained by questionnaires and interviews.

This research proposes novel conceptual framework and modeling method for analyzing the UGS accessibility. The results can determine hidden factors affecting actual accessibility of PGS. It also indicates possible social inequity on accessing to UGS. It will also contribute to targeted suggestions on improving the UGS accessibility in prospective UGS design and plan

Study on the theory and methods of resilient delta planning and design and its application in Pearl River Delta

Dai Wei
Department of Architecture | South China University of Technology

Natural disasters in the Pearl River Delta are more diverse, frequent, overlapping, uncertain and destructive than those in other regions. How to balance the protection of the natural basement with the needs of urban development becomes an important task for government, planning and design departments and research institutions in order to better adapt to climate change in the future.

The Ph.D. project systematically studies the theory and method of resilient planning and design for the delta area, and applies the research results of theory and method to the Pearl River Delta.

Main contents and innovations in this project are as follows.

  1. Unique landscape of the delta area, existing situation of Pearl River Delta and the significance of resilience are studied.
  2. The theoretical framework of resilient planning and design for delta area is put forward, with “three capacity, four connotation and six spatial characters”.
  3. The methodological framework of resilient planning and design for the delta area is proposed, with a conceptual model of “thee-lines” and “five categories of space”.
  4. The conducting steps for resilient planning and design are put forward.
  5. The strategies and measurements of resilient planning and design for Pearl River Delta are suggested.
  6. The strategies of resilient planning and design for Nansha and Pearl Bay are respectively suggested.