How do we plan in difficult fast changing circumstances? What is the impact of the past on the present and the future and how do particular pasts modify a universalising global today? How do we think change and a different future in planning paradigms that assume Western notions and spaces of modernisation and development, and have in their turn produced crises of sustainability, homogenisation, urban quality and cultural value?

There is a problem with the creation of visions for the future that are unable to deal with changing circumstances and changing assessments of quality and value. In particular, visions based in ideas of globalisation, development and modernisation are being critically reassessed on the basis of assumptions of embedded in them. These visions have been seen to produce crises of sustainability, homogenisation and quality, and have been quickly overtaken by events in fast changing conditions. We need to imagine the future differently and be critical of business as usual if we want change. But we need to also continue moving towards answers even as questions change. We need perhaps to go beyond paradigms that universalise planning thinking and build on a past already embedded in contemporary landscapes, practices and aspirations.

What we want to do in this project is explore the future of the region and sites in the region by constructing a series of studies and scenarios focussed on real places and framed in ideas beyond development and modernisation. These may be ideas like ‘sustainability’ (social, economic, environmental), and ‘complexity’ and ‘diversity’ as positive values. We want to value and build on historically evolved structures and circumstances, rather than conceiving a tabula rasa and constructing completely new beginnings that lose touch with our cultural, local and regional roots in the past.

The research will consist of theoretical and empirical studies leading to open-ended spatial development strategies for Shenzhen as a whole as well as in its central, peripheral and new town conditions. The objectives of the studies will be on the one hand to understand the spatial development modes and trajectories of the region, with historical analyses of its socio-economic  and spatial transformation processes; then to propose more flexible spatial development strategies that take account of local particularities and inform the relations between global-local, urban-rural, rich-poor, formal-informal. The emphasis will be on spatial development and urban governance and the links between the regional, city and local scales. We hope to make modest steps towards modes of development beyond the approaches producing crises of sustainability, homogenisation and quality today.

Shenzhen Scenarios Studio [under construction]

Shenzhen project (INTI) website [under construction]


Shenzhen Centre for Design,

Urban Planning and Land Resource Commission of Shenzhen Municipality,

Institute of Urbanization – China Development Institute,

Luohu planning office,

Da Lang planning office,

Sustainable Spatial Planning Project, City of Almere,

Eco-effective Entrepreneurship in Urban Environments CAH Almere

University of Applied Sciences, Centre for Urban Studies UvA,

Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies Erasmus U,

Chinese University of Hong Kong


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