Game Boarding Regional Development

What happens when the sensor-imbued city acquires the ability to see – almost as if it had eyes? Ahead of the 2019 Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (UABB), titled "Urban Interactions," ArchDaily is working with the curators of the "Eyes of the City" section at the Biennial to stimulate a discussion on how new technologies – and Artificial Intelligence in particular – might impact architecture and urban life. Here you can read the “Eyes of the City” curatorial statement by Carlo Ratti, the Politecnico di Torino and SCUT.

The recent ‘Greater Bay Area’ (GBA) initiative has led to a renewed interest in the supra-urban and regional or territorial planning scale by the spatial planning professions, urbanists and strategic spatial planners globally. The emergence of ‘mega’ urban-scapes and their regional agglomeration into urbanised areas of over 70 million – at least an order of magnitude larger than has ever been planned before - has reframed many conventional challenges of the spatial planning agenda. With the mega region in formation, a new necessity emerges, that being the investigation of the dynamic, morphogenetic and ecosystemic properties specific to specific regional conditions. Simply, the integration of eleven significantly sized cities and their corresponding metropolitan hinterlands, three special economic or administrative regions, three currencies, and three (or more) different cultural groups into one urban regional entity is a massive undertaking. At present aside from the governance and policy intentions this has primarily resulted in an infrastructural planning approach, one that utilizes a systemic top-down approach that seeks to provide the connective tissues and reticules, as well as civic and economic systems that mobilise people, capital and goods in such a vast region. This approach is akin to the smart city models which seek to enfold all aspects of civic life within infrastructure systemic control paradigms. But in reality, given the scope and scale of this undertaking the modalities of planning in the GBA need to shift from an extensive planned realm in which every part coheres to a plan, to one of a differentiated field in which different intensities arise as an effect of their urban eco-system integration (or its lack of). This clearly needs new approaches, concepts and models of planning that can deal with these regional issues in dynamic, open-ended ways that can foster new modalities of planning. 

Therefore the definition of new territorial regions and scales in the GBA, exert pressure on current modernist derived approaches: in which planning methods and their instruments operating in particular ideological paradigms, seek optimised solutions for urban planometric aggregation and allocation, structural characteristics of the landscape and its aligned economic functionality, and socio-econometric models which give rise to the modern city. Such models may have structural or spatial limits, as some of the 1990s strategic spatial planning approaches for integrated cross border urban regions in the emergent EU highlighted at the time. The planning discipline therefore needs to critically reconsider its role whilst developing appropriate tools and models that are able to address current territorial challenges, whilst at the same time projecting possible future scenarios.  In this light, with the challenges of new mega-regions, how or in what way would the conventional methods of spatial planning need to find adjustment or modification in their praxes? What if the conventional ways of planning become overburdened by both the scales of a planned landscape as well as the long-outdrawn processes that hamper decisions and reactionary steps of design?

Outlined here are the outcomes of scenario testing and proposition formulation in the field of spatial planning on a mega scale region of the GBA. This is done through the introduction of game board methodologies and approaches. As a point of departure, the work shown challenges the way strategic planning becomes instrumental as a speculative medium in materialising spatial strategies at the regional and territorial scales, inclusive of environmental systems and their even larger scales. 

The four propositions - pointillist city, strip development, linear, and mega block city, each amalgamate a basic understanding of urban development, urban morphology, urban spatial planning, territorial organisation and the specifics of scales through which these strategies perform through. In addition, and more importantly, each of the strategic spatial incentives was derived using game boarding as design methodology, strategizing spatial qualities through fast response tactics to conventional planning steps, playing-out formal and conceptual conditions of new city design in relation to both larger regions of impact, whilst recognizing the long-terms perspectives towards change.

Intentions, propositions and design incentives are part and parcel of the production of long term scenarios in strategic spatial design. This is especially relevant to spatial thinking on an urban scale, and the development of scenarios to ‘play out’ opportunities whilst testing the valance of ideas at a number of scales. Within the context of territorial thinking, these have previously been defined as design ‘fantasies’ by Winy Maas (2011), game board processes by Bärbel Reinart and Alenka Poplin (2014), or seen as methodologies of a developmental processes, as defined by Raoul Bunschoten (1999), that later become policies, new directions in design or, at the extreme, production of new urbanisation types. In “The Great Leap Forward” (2002), Rem Koohaas and the other co-authors write of Shenzhen architecture and rapid development in the 1990s as culminating in the city of exacerbated differences.

The production of ‘difference’ in strategic (planning) propositions foster other conceptual and methodological approaches in strategic planning. Conceptually, it allows for greater understanding of the dynamic synergistic processes - economies, mobilities, ecologies and patterns of living - concentrating on how and what to develop in order to affect radical difference between places, centres and locations, in its functional relations from economy, social change and environmental cycles. The harnessing of design concepts as intensification, multiplication of different urban typologies and morphologies to generate a wider range of urban centres and nodes that could promote, not the agglomeration of eleven cities and their hinterlands, but the multiplicity of 100 cities of ‘difference’. By questioning current planning and strategy instruments new characteristics would be devised to impact: connectivity, mobility, diverse and divergent characteristics of urban areas, settlement nodes, industrial nodes, leisure nodes, ecological nodes, service nodes and financial sector nodes, amongst others. 

Methodologically, difference allows for rapid formulations, in continuous cycles of evaluation and comparison. It opens possibilities for other ways of thinking to emerge, allowing the reapplication of strategic tools from tangential disciplines, as for example game design, to become a means to for rapid succession of intentions and sound possibilities for development. Game boarding in particular allows for a multi-part input on one single platform, in these cases the map of the region, continuously seeking the best possible position for each ‘player’s’ element, that forms part of the a spatio-temporal scenario. With each protected outcome the aim is not to deliver resolute and definitive settings. Instead, the game boarding process we advocate for here, exposes latent opportunities, seeking what else is possible within the immediacy of each move, and each participating agent, which in combination solidifies propositions. And although the elements used on the map may seem out of scale with the actual context, game boarding strategies allow for scale interpolations, between the size of elements and their real life materialisation. The speculation through individual elements, act as references to scales of influences, delivering new qualities of space and the environment through the presence and co-presence of elements. This dynamic form of modelling is twofold. One the one side,  ‘playing-out’ spatial planning links intrinsic stakeholders with scenario driven outcomes within specifics of types of eco-system development. Whilst on the other, the model determines possible processes of change, as it considers the cumulative problems of each metropolitan system, positioning each step or element within an integrated system and its territorial decisions needed. The spatial models developed, position ‘speculative’ planning framework for the next 50 years. Each proposal recognises and articulates a multi-scalar perspective specific to each iterative step in the development resulting in multiple pathways and possible outcomes. 

First, pointillist strategies for the GBA region develops a differentiated grid approach to spatial planning. This permits the fine-grained nuancing and programming of formerly zoned or delimited territories, proposing that a wider range of development types can be programmed into the existing low level and underutilised landscapes of the GBA. The key focus herein positions specific economic development that outlines smaller and larger clusters that produce ‘mega’, ‘medium’ and ‘small’ Special Economic Regions (SER) across the GBA territory. As outcomes the propositions further developed intermitted scales of development, linking high and lowers points within each new zone, whilst testing the social dimensions that interlink individual points. 

The GBA and its point territory strategies. Ioanna Virvidaki, Laura Thomas, Marcello Corradi, Maria Symeonidi and Mark Scholten.
Hong Kong SAR and parts of Shenzhen as Pointillist City. Saijal Sharma, Han Ke Hannar and Liu Kaiyun.

Second, strip development explores the methodology of territorial strips to provide functional and spatial distribution. The current piecemeal development along infrastructure lines follows a centre and periphery model. As difference, the strip model approach positions asymmetrical concepts, where the variety of functional strips challenge types of morphologies and social mixing. Of particular interest herein is the massive intensification and strategic cross-threshold conditions, inserting differentiated (smaller and thinner) commercial and financial sectors derived from primary strips, whilst permitting the close adjacency of diversely programmed strips (formal, informal, coherent and piecemeal compositions) across the territory. This provides high degrees of differentiated granularity across versus along the strip city, allowing synergies and adjacencies across the strips and repetition along.

Strip territories for the GBA, centred on the PRD. Jahnavi Bhatt, Marina Binti Mohamed Rani, Oumkaltoum Boudouaya, Eleni Maria Koskeridou and Dhushyanth Ravichandrakumar.
Higher resolutions of the strip morphologies materialising across Hong Kong’s landscape. Zhong Lihui, Yang Fan Sailing and Wen Nian Vinien.

Third, linear development strategies follow lines of development. Linear programs activate diverse edges along singular lines. Irrespective whether these lines are related to coastlines, interiors or intentions linking infrastructure, they resemble an ever-important aspect of the entrepôt city with the edges marking lines of exchange and value transformation across these lines and singularities in the intersections of two or more lines. The intersection of existing corridors or movement and functions with new ‘lines’ demarcate potentials for development along redefined infrastructural corridors. Such spatial vectors shift the centre of gravity for territories, CBD’s and infrastructure models that support key areas of interest or distract attention from other zones. With the drawing of new lines, new strategies are borne with inherent conditions and consequences to how each line manifests, as line weight are expressed as architecture or as functional entity. 

The Hong Kong SAR strategized through the concepts of linear strategies. Wang Lian, He Mengyang Joy and Lauma Kokorevica.

Fourth, mega bock development focusses on the singularity of the mega urban block. In particular, an increasing phenomena of Asian urbanisation is the emergence of mega block development. In the European context the city, urban and perimeter blocks have remained the prevalent morphological unit for urban expansion and development, derived from the urban plot. For the Asian context, the ‘mega’ has become territorial enclave mechanisms in of themselves. As such, Mega block urbanisms are individual and totalising urban landscapes, claiming vast portions of land that replicate the model in a repetitive process. Although each mega block type may house 500 000 dwellers, they represent cities in their own right, expanding across regions whilst establishing highly specific identities and the differentiation of urban characteristics, between mega blocks and existent historic forms of urbanisation.

Reformulating the GBA through the scale and concepts of mega block developments. Elisa Isaza Bernhard, Kavya Kalyan, Kavya Suresh, Minalies Rezikalla and Jiajun Wu.

In conclusion, the coupling of speculative and projected methods of urbanisation and regional planning can shift our perspective of the city towards opportunities of the city-mega-region and its transformative potentials. Leveraging theses outcomes, we foresee the continued effort required in evolving open-ended spatial planning tools, not as a less informed methodology within a binary driven data paradigm, but as one that will allow for the collective responses with concrete design possibilities with newly defined territorial characteristics and new forms of differentiation. 

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University – School of Design, Urban Systems and Strategies Masters Unit. Prof. Peter Hasdell (Coordinator), Gerhard Bruyns, Prof. dr. KK Ling – DISI. 

PhD Students: Darren Nel, Jasmine Zhang Suxin, Eveline Peng, Krity Gera, Jen Yoohyun Lee.

Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture, Globalization Course.Dr. D.A.Sepulveda-Carmona (Coordinator), Dr. Luisa Calabrese - Design of the Urban Fabrics Research Group, Dr. Qu Lei - Complex City Region, Dr. Stephen Read, Dr. ir. Gregory Bracken, Dr. Yuting Tai. 

Shenzhen Centre For Design: Huang Weiwen

International Forum of Urbanism: Vivien Wang

Other acknowledgments:

Financial support provided by The School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Department of Urbanism, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, the Delft University of Technology. 


Delft University of Technology: Laura Thomas, Wendy van der Horst, Mark Scholten, Henry Endemann, Maria Symeonidi, Ioanna Virvidaki, Kavya Suresh, Dhushyanth Ravichandrakumar, Kavya Kalyan, Wu Wu, Jahnavi Bhatt, Marina Marina Binti Mohamed Rani, Elisa Isaza, Minalies Rezikalla, Marialena Koskeridou, Marcello Corradi, Surabhi Khandelwal, Yueqi Tang, Oumkaltoum Boudouaya.

Polytechnic University: Feng Shuyuan, Gu Peiran, Hong Yifei, Li Guangda, Li Shuang, Liang Dongfan, Lin Shiying, Wang Yue, Xu Ye, Yang Chaojun, Zhang Jiayi, Zhao Chengming, Zhao Chenlu, Zhao Yichang, Wen Jiangxin, Kopacz Panna Boroka. 

About the Authors

From left to right: Gerhard, Peter and Diego

Gerhard Bruyns – The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Dr. ir. Gerhard Bruyns is an architect and urbanist. He is Associate Professor of Environment and Interior Design, School of Design at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong. His research deals with the aspects of spatial morphology ( and its impact on both the formal expression of the city and societal conditions that are compressed into an urban landscape of Asia. He has published on design strategies and urban morphology, and has taught in the Netherlands (TU Delft), Germany, South Africa and South America. He is currently operational editor of Cubic Design Journal

Peter Hasdell – The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Peter Hasdell architect and urbanist, is associate Professor in the School of Design at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, he leads the Environment and Interior program and directs the Design Social research initiative. Graduated from the Architectural Association, he taught extensively in schools including The Bartlett School, The Berlage Institute, Columbia University; and worked with Peter Cook, Raoul Bunschoten, and Mark West. Former research associate for Chora Institute of Architecture and Urbanism, and Centre for Architecture Structures and Technology, his research focus is urban metabolism (city as an urban ecology), and architecture (responsive architectures). Books include Border Ecologies (Birkhauser 2016). 

Diego Sepulveda-Carmona – Delft University of Technology. 

Dr. Diego Sepulveda-Carmona is Assistant Professor at the Department of Urbanism of the Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. He holds a PhD in Spatial Planning, and is currently developing research that redefine new scales of regional development. Sepulveda is an expert in infrastructural development and socio-environmental integration impacted by processes of rapidly transforming spatial settings. He has been a consultant to ministries of India and Central America, whilst in an academic capacity, coordinating the Globalisation Course for the last 17 years, a studio that has reconceptualised the metropolitan processes and stakeholders roles of Buenos Aires, Shenzhen, Mexico City, and Santiago de Chile.

"Urban Interactions": Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) - 8th edition. Shenzhen, China

Opening in December, 2019 in Shenzhen, China, "Urban Interactions" is the 8th edition of the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (UABB). The exhibition consists of two sections, namely “Eyes of the City” and “Ascending City”, which will explore the evolving relationship between urban space and technological innovation from different perspectives. The “Eyes of the City" section features MIT professor and architect Carlo Ratti as Chief Curator and Politecnico di Torino-South China University of Technology as Academic Curator. The "Ascending City" section features Chinese academician Meng Jianmin and Italian art critic Fabio Cavallucci as Chief Curators.‬‬‬

"Eyes of The City" section

Chief Curator: Carlo Ratti.

Academic Curator: South China-Torino Lab (Politecnico di Torino - Michele Bonino; South ChinaUniversity of Technology - Sun Yimin)

Executive Curators: Daniele Belleri [CRA], Edoardo Bruno, Xu Haohao    

Curator of the GBA Academy: Politecnico di Milano (Adalberto Del Bo)

"Ascending City" section

Chief Curators: Meng Jianmin, Fabio Cavallucci

Co-Curator: Science and Human Imagination Center of Southern University of Science and Technology (Wu Yan)

Executive Curators: Chen Qiufan, Manuela Lietti, Wang Kuan, Zhang Li

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Cite: Gerhard Bruyns, Peter Hasdell, and Diego Sepulveda-Carmona. "Game Boarding Regional Development" 22 Feb 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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