Return to Case Study Briefs

Shenzhen Bay Coastal Park Phase 1

Landscape Performance Benefits


  • Restores 24.83 acres of coastal mangrove and tidal mudflats.
  • Sequesters an estimated 934.13 tons of carbon annually through on-site plantings. This annual rate is equivalent to the amount of energy used by 328 American homes for one year.
  • Affords habitat to more than 50 bird species, including the ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres), the common greenshank (Tringa nebularia), and the pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta).
  • Stabilizes temperatures along the coastline for park users. On-site air temperatures rose on average 5.76°F from morning to afternoon, as opposed to adjacent sites which rose 9.18°F on average during the same period.


  • Hosts a range of cultural and sporting events annually, including the city's annual Cross Shenzhen Hiking Festival, where 60,000 people participated in 2016.
  • Accommodates a wide array of experiences and social uses through its use of different cultural spaces. Of 446 images geotagged at Shenzhen Bay Coastline Park and publicly posted in June 2016 to Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website similar to Twitter, 32.7% feature the city skyline, while an additional 30% focus on showing nature, 7.2% focus on recreational activities, 9.9% capture events and social activities, and 7.4% featuring wedding photography.
  • Acts as a major tourist draw and contributes to the national and international identity of the city as evidenced through its 4.5 (out of 5) star rating on Trip Advisor. It is rated the 19th best attraction (out of 485) in Shenzhen.


  • Creates 9 full-time jobs and 400 part-time positions for gardeners and maintenance workers in the park.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    SWA Group; CAUPDSZ

  • Project Type

    Park/Open space
    Waterfront redevelopment

  • Former Land Use

    Bay and reclaimed land

  • Location

    Shenzhen Bay Park, Wanghai Road
    Shenzhen, China
    Map it

  • Climate Zone

    Humid subtropical

  • Size

    318 acres

  • Budget

    $91 million

  • Completion Date


Shenzhen Bay Coastal Park Phase 1 marked the end of almost three decades of ever-encroaching coastal development in Guangdong Province, China, as the bay was continually filled in with material mined from adjacent mountains to accommodate the city’s transition from fishing villages to a giant manufacturing hub. Paradoxically, the park’s construction required the filling 87.6 acres of the bay in order to create a narrow strip of parkland between the already-constructed new coastal parkway and the water’s edge. The Coastal Park represents a lush, tropical green necklace that interweaves natural and artificial ecologies with highly manicured and choreographed landscapes juxtaposed with 2 restored mangroves and intertidal mudflats. The project is instrumental in cultivating a new perception of Shenzhen as a green, livable city of 18 million people that is as well known for its cosmopolitan quality as it is for the goods it produces. The park fundamentally restructures the bay as a center of life for the city rather than a boundary, offering breathtaking views of Shenzhen and Hong Kong across Shenzhen Bay. 


After more than 3 decades of expansion into Shenzhen Bay, reclaiming land by using fill from demolished mountains, Shenzhen officials announced an international competition for a linear park along the city’s edge, which would simultaneously create a boundary to the city’s growth and create public waterfront promenade and recreational spaces parallel to a new vehicular parkway.


The landscape architects proposed a vibrant urban linear park, which addressed as much as possible the original ecologies of the region and married them to an active and lively public arena, with 13 regionally-programmed parks. The shoreline promenade created a series of various atmospheres and reconnected local communities to the bay, restored 2 mangrove and tidal mudflat ecological zones while creating an urban stormwater system. The design promoted habitat for marine and avian communities while providing vital shore stabilization through the cleverly developed various terraced sections from the multi-lane vehicular parkway to bay, which worked with a height difference of between 5’ and 5’-6”. The sections allowed the separation of areas of offshore ecologies, bicycle paths (closest to the water’s edge), an elevated pedestrian promenade that connects to various program components of the various themed parks along the east-west / south transect. 

  • 51 acres of restored mangrove and tidal mudflats reestablishes local ecologies and naturally stabilizes the city-to-water interface.
  • More than 400 plant species were planted in the park. The most linear, northern Segment A is more formally planted with species like rubber fig (Ficus elastica), sea hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus), and Chinese fan palm (Livistona chinensis). Segment B near the Da She He River features primarily native plants with exotic plants for splashes of color, including Chinese banyan (Ficus microcarpa), Pride of Asia (Lagerstroemia speciosa), and Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia blakeana). Segment C in the western area of the park  features plants like flame tree (Delonix regia), red silky oak (Grevillea banksii var. forsteri), and golden rain tree (Cassia fistula). 
  • An extensive pedestrian promenade connects 13 regionally-themed parks with various social and cultural uses along the coast.
  • Service stations are provided at approximately every .62 miles along the promenade. They provide power stations, toilets, maintenance facilities, and gathering places.
  • The once-feared towers along the bay’s edge, where guards would “shoot to kill” swimmers trying to cross to British-controlled Hong Kong, were retained along the coastal promenade as surrealistic reminders of a bygone era. 
  • Bicycle rentals, with tandem and child-size bikes available, are provided in the park in 2 locations to encourages visitors to explore the network of cycle paths.
  • Clever industrial design integrates gabions and planting kiosks which displays a recycling technique while simultaneously accommodating park signage.  
  • Local granite was employed throughout the park, minimizing the need for transporting external materials.
  • The strategy to use extensive fill-as-trade-off is comparable to Flamengo Park on Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro by Affonso Eduardo Reidy and Roberto Burle Marx, completed in 1965 in near-similar conditions and now a UNESCO World Heritage Monument.

As China’s first and most successful Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in 1979, Shenzhen was the focus of a massive development effort and rapidly transformed from a series of adjacent fishing villages into a giant manufacturing hub. Shenzhen experienced growth at an unprecedented rate and its expansion left no land untouched including Shenzhen Bay itself. Utilizing fill, often acquired by razing hills and small mountains located along the city’s opposite boundary, Shenzhen’s building program began to overrun and destroy the area’s local mangrove ecology which had decreased steadily since the early 1980s when they covered more than 1309 acres of mangrove forests. Shenzhen was faced with the challenge of how to stop and reverse the destruction of this native ecology. By the mid-2000s, the city’s mangrove forests had shrunk to just 321 acres with similar declines among many of the endangered species the habitat supported.

In 2007, recognizing the devastating loss of such an important ecology, the Shenzhen city government released a blueprint proposing to increase mangrove forests to 1,235 acres. The report reflected a new focus, and the recognition that in order to prevent the continued devastation of mangroves, Shenzhen would need to cease its program of reclamation into Shenzhen Bay. The city opened an international competition for the design of a park that would run along the coastline, setting boundary to the process of reclamation that had defined the city’s growth for more than 30 years. There were four short-listed firms: AUBE (France), Anetos (Japan), LandDesign Inc. (USA) and SWA Group (Houston office) partnered with China Academy of Urban Planning & Design Shenzhen Branch (CAUPDSZ).

SWA Group and CAUPDSZ’s winning proposal created a new, permanent coastline, with a series of five distinct clusters of bays, each with their unique mix of urban and natural ecologies and connected with a series of linear promenades for the local people and cultures of Shenzhen. Each bay cluster was to have a different level of accessibility with the city and originally all were intended to be well-connected with public transport (which unfortunately never came to fruition). Phase 1 of the project, which included the first three segments (collectively named Shenzhen Coastal Bay Park) were from east to west/ south A, B and C. Segment A is the most narrow and grafts onto the existing city fabric: the challenge of this area was to reconnect the long linear waterfront to the city over the Binhai Coastal Expressway. Segment B is the section near the Da She He River, an important flood and drainage system that also provides fresh water to the bay. Segment C had the challenge to camouflage the large customs logistical area of Shenzhen-Hong Kong.

  • The amount of hardscape in the park is overwhelming, particularly in the oversized infrastructure of the bicycle and pedestrian promenades. The excessive use of only granite leaves one wondering if more “natural” waterfront-like materials would create a marine-like atmosphere, rather than the continuation of the urban space to the sea. The floating concrete grid in the constructed wetland in component C is another completely over-scaled infrastructure component that overwhelms even the tropical landscape.
  • Directly at the waterfront, for the cyclists and the few explorers amongst the rocks and small beaches, there is a total lack of trees or any shading devices, which is brutal under the tropical Shenzhen sun. Further back, towards the parkway various densities of vegetation are offered amongst the park programs
  • The terracing in section in the narrowest component of the park (component A, which runs east from the Fuitan Mangrove Nature Reserve west until the bend where the park turns southwards) has a lack of access from one level to another, making it extremely difficult for pedestrians to reach the bay. Many park visitors were seen climbing down the 5’ wall to reach the waterside; in component B and C, there are ramps that make the transition playful and safe.
  • It is very important to emphasize the cultural context of the site. Although park users enjoy the recreational functions of the coastal park, it could have been further improved by including and responding even more to local culture.
  • The most successful spaces created in Shenzhen Bay Coastal Park are designed simply and with versatility so they can be appropriated by different users for different purposes. The open-ended spaces have been much more successful than the park’s complicated and prescribed spaces. In a similar vein, the use of durable and local materials, which create simple and potentially multi-functional space were as well more successful than those that were complicated or overly prescribed and contributed to their longevity.
  • The design and implementation of the project was managed and approved by two different government entities, the Planning Bureau and the Public Works Bureau respectively. Each of these agencies had different perspectives of the project. Although the design and planning idea was approved by the Planning Bureau in the early stage of the project, this vision was not necessarily supported by the Public Work Bureau during construction. As a result, a number of ideas were compromised during implementation. 

Project Team

Client: Shenzhen Urban Planning and Land Administration, Shenzhen Public Works Bureau, Shenzhen Green Administration Bureau
Landscape Architect: SWA Group 
Master Planners and Comprehensive Coordination: China Academy of Urban Planning & Design Shenzhen Branch – Urban Planning & Architecture (CAUPDSZ)
Construction Documentation: Shenzhen BLY Landscape and Architecture Inc.

Role of the Landscape Architect

SWA Group and CAUPDSZ were lead designers on Shenzhen Bay Coastal Park, from creating the initial planning concept to design development. SWA Group additionally provided construction phasing services. CAUPDSZ provided the architecture function location and scale requirements and SWA Group provided the guiding design, which included the shoreline promenade and focused on restoring the natural mangrove ecologies, which had been destroyed by the reclamation of the bay between Shenzhen and Hong Kong. 


Shoreline protection, Habitat creation, preservation & restoration, Populations & species richness, Temperature & urban heat island, Carbon sequestration & avoidance, Recreational & social value, Cultural preservation, Scenic quality & views, Job creation, Trail, Reused/recycled materials, Native plants, Local materials, Active living, Biodiversity, Placemaking, Restoration

The LPS Case Study Briefs are produced by the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF), working in conjunction with designers and/or academic research teams to assess performance and document each project. LAF has no involvement in the design, construction, operation, or maintenance of the projects. See the Project Team tab for details. If you have questions or comments on the case study itself, contact us at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Help build the LPS: Find out how to submit a case study and other ways to contribute.