Reviving NAN TOU: A Place Caught in the Pitfall of Gentrification by

2023 Public Projects / China / Built in 2022 /

The Nantou Ancient Town has a tortuous history spanning around 1700 years. It gradually become a slum as Shenzhen expanded over time. However, later, as it was positioned as the origin of the Greater Bay Area, people needed a spiritual homeland, and Nantou suddenly underwent a series of transformations. Unfortunately, previous efforts focused on the renewal and commercializing of the main street and the living space of the true residents were squeezed out. This project design focuses on improving the overcrowded living area that lacks public spaces within the community to create a comfortable living environment. The landscape project uses negative spaces aim to improve the overall quality of life in the neighborhood.


Nantou ancient town, with its 1700-year-old history, underwent a unique historical evolution that has made it a victim of gentrification. Nantou was once just an ordinary urban village inhabited by the city’s underprivileged population. However, as the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area was developed, the need for a cultural “origin” and a “spiritual homeland” arose, causing Nantou to be revalued and revived as such. Unfortunately, the subsequent commercialization and tourism-focused transformation of the central cross street, rather than improving the living conditions of the residents. As landscape architects, the design must ensure to prioritize the needs and well-being of the community, rather than solely catering to commercial interests.


The design process focused on the neglected spaces within the ancient town, in contrast to the vibrant main streets. These areas were cluttered with residents’ belongings and abandoned objects, and the makeshift buildings created a fragmented environment within the narrow alleys. The team reorganized these spaces, adding greenery and creating platforms and benches, transforming them into several small community gathering areas that attract people to linger.


The project salvaged large blocks of granite left on the site and used them to craft a natural water garden through layering, corrosion of the stones and planting various vegetation on it. The low-cost concrete imprint was also widely used in the design of Nantou, such as the bamboo wall of Folding Gardentand the leaf-imprinted pavement, to preserve the community’s rustic texture using the site’s original materials.

The Guanyin Well is a historical site on site, and the building on the well, the Guanyin Pavilion, was destroyed during the war. The landscape water feature starts from the ancient well and the stream flows slowly down the old street along the stacked old granite. The memory of the well is preserved through this water-based design.


By connecting various nodes, the project has expanded the activity space within the community, creating a continuous linear flow. Within the community, some residential buildings have been repurposed into offices and convenience stores. Thus, the landscape has opened up the original walls to create more opportunities for outdoor dining and seating. In addition, the garden has been left with ample space, offering a blank canvas for community activities. As a result of the transformation, the quality of life for residents in Nantou has greatly improved, leading many who were planning to leave due to poor living conditions to reconsider and stay.

Location: Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
Design year: 2019-2021
Year Completed: 2020-2022


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