Nan’ao Island Waterfront District, Shenzhen, China

Nan’ao Island Waterfront

Location: Shenzhen, China

Client: Shenzhen Bureau of Urban Planning and Natural Resource

Architects: Chapman Taylor

Size: 296 square kilometers

Status: completed 2019

Masterplan, Climate Change

The island of Nan’ao is prone to numerous environmental threats triggered by climate change. Rising

temperatures alter flora and fauna, deter visitors form enjoying the outdoors comfortably, and

instigate storm events. Water is a major challenge. Rainfall flooding and storm surges threaten

Xichong’s coast. Strong currents and large tides leave people and infrastructure vulnerable.

The proposed design responds to these challenges, viewing them as opportunities to develop

innovative, imaginative solutions to protect Xichong Nan’ao and enhance its cultural and

economic character for years to come. With a coastal resiliency approach, 5 levels of defence

are proposed.

Level 1 is a Sea Barrier comprised of artificial reefs, floating breakwater islands, eco-piles and

tidal pools. The artificial reefs help buffer and enhance existing coral reefs that are in decline.

Floating breakwater islands include habitat for aquatic life while providing wave attenuation.

Eco-piles inserted into the shoreline stabilize shifting sediment. Tidal pools absorb water while

providing opportunities for water play. These elements work together to protect the coast, while

offering a range of tourism activities including swimming, nature play and coastal ecological


Level 2 is a Costal Dyke comprised of reinforced sand dunes used to slow, filter and absorb

water. Cultural dunes integrated beach facilities and terraced edges, environmental dunes

include sand fences and vegetation for stabilization.

Level 3 is the Eco-Park. An expansive area of coastal wetlands and woodlands allow the site

to flood when water surpasses the Sea Barrier and Coastal Dyke. This large eco-zone includes

mangrove vegetation, native wetland species, and afforestation strategies to maximize ecology

and biodiversity while providing carbon sequestration.

Level 4 is the Inland Dyke, a continuous green spine weaving through and connecting the site.

With lush vegetation and topographic synthesis, the dyke is an ecological levee. It includes

activities such as walking, hiking and cycling and serves as an armour to protect people, villages

and infrastructure during extreme storm events.

Level 5 is a series of retention ponds located adjacent to the site’s rivers. During storm events

and heavy rainfall periods, the ponds absorb overflow water and alleviate pressure on the rivers.

Riverside vegetation helps to slow high water velocity.

The five levels of defence work together as a holistic, resilient system. While protecting the site,

they welcome visitors to a range of coastal ecological experiences providing education and

awareness of the value and beauty of Nan’ao. Here, environment, culture and economy prosper

together for years to come.