Guangzhou White Swan Waterfront: Renaissance of Origin

Design Team:

Perry Yang, Peggy Lu, Colin Chew Chun Yen, Dennis Tan, Kenneth Koh Qibao, Koh Hao Yeow, Tan Eng Kiat, Wong Jing Yao



Guangdong Urban and Rural Planning and Design Institute: Ma Xiangming



Final entry


Gangzhou’s White Swan District is the historical origin of the Pearl River Delta. It’s a site that witnessed historical events like Opium War, Shisanhang, Sun Yet-sen Fleet event and the construction of White Swan Hotel that represented the dawn of China’s economic reform. In the Sphere and the Labyrinth, Manfredo Tafuri puts forward the idea of “the historical project” as an open construct that reactivates past events in its reading of the present. History is redefined and reinvented as a shifting and complex plurality rather than a given monolithic and comprehensive whole. For Guangzhou, the re-construction of historical area White Swan District is first of all a deconstruction, decomposition and analysis of the pieces that provide the elements for creating new urban form. In this sense, the historical and future trajectory of White Swan District should be active, not only determined by the objects it analyses but also determinant of the realities it deconstructs and recomposes.  Acting on a multiple and non-linear time, the history offers itself an intrinsically endless analytical construct, and is always able to produce the future, the renaissance of historical origin, the regeneration of old city and a proposition to redefine Guangzhou’s central position in the Pearl River Delta Region. The new urban landscape of White Swan therefore contains new commitment and social objective to transcend the forms and functions of the notorious past, to disentangle the bundle of threads of ideology and to redefine new urban images and meanings.


The urban design and development strategies include the following three components:

1. To find out the key “urban catalyst” to initiate the process of urban regeneration – It is critical to look at the start-up project that can begin to redefine the urban function, urban form as well as urban meaning of the area. An entirely new city image and appropriate development project will kick off the process of redevelopment.

2. To investigate the vertical planning system of the area – We have observed an urban phenomenon of the area that had been developed based on spontaneous and individual development action, which lacks coordination and planning control from governmental sector. It results in a landscape fragmentation and out of control development behavior that has been sprawling over the area. Through urban systematic analysis of the land use, transportation, green, waterway and existing settlement, we extract the existing urban functional layers and reorganize the vertical planning systems of the area through recombination and reconfiguration of the urban infrastructure, land use pattern, green ecosystem and stream corridor. It is for the preparation of making an effective planning control and public investment of the area.

3. To redevelopment the area through incremental process – We have identified an urban pattern of “ecological gradient” as the main characteristic of the district, from the flower farm economy at the surroundings, the hybrid landscaping as the background eco-infrastructure, the waterfront redevelopment belt as the “piano key” pattern and the TOD-driven redevelopment simulation of the central area that contains many existing urban villages. The urban design proposal highlights the process and mechanism for redeveloping the area incrementally, rather than a fancy final urban geometry.