Create a 3D Map of Shenzhen with Recyclable Materials | UABB EXHIBITS Vol.14


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The 2019 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) (hereinafter referred to as “UABB”) themed “Urban Interactions” was officially opened on December 22nd at the two main venues at Futian High Speed Railway Station and the Museum of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition (MOCAPE). The exhibition consisted of two sections, namely “Eyes of the City” and “Ascending City”. Nine sub-venues in the different districts of the city well interacted with the two main venues, completing an organically interactive network throughout the city. On August 19, 2020, the 8th Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) officially closed online.

More than 140 exhibits presented by over 280 participants from 24 countries and regions explored the evolving relationship between future lives, technological innovation and urban cities. This volume of UABB EXHIBITS brings you an introduction of 3D Shenzhen, an exhibit from section “Ascending City”.


3D Shenzhen

Shenzhen Urban Planning & Land Resources Research Center

Venue: Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning

Section: Ascending City

Sub Section: Empowering Citizens in Progressive Cities


Established by the People’s Municipal Government of Shenzhen in June 2008, Shenzhen Urban Planning & Land Resource Research Center (the Center) is a non-profit institution under administration of Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Natural Resources and Planning. The Center’s main functions include: the formulation of urban development strategies, master plans, short-term construction plans, district plans, and statutory plans; research on major planning policies and subjects, and planning for key areas; comprehensive traffic layout planning; research and draft (revision) for planning and technical codes; planning related to land use and management, policy research and survey evaluation, land property and asset evaluation; dynamic maintenance and implementation evaluation for planning research achievements; and other management and technical services for land planning.


Bird’s Eye View of “3D Shenzhen”, Photo by Lin Wenwen

3D model visualization of density zoning in Shenzhen 

As an exhibit of the “Ascending City” section, the large-scale outdoor installation “3D Shenzhen” was presented on the square west of Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning (MOCAUP) in central Futian District. This is a group of interactive experience exhibits on the theme of density. The three-dimensional metal frame is stacked, and four colors are used to represent four architectural volumes of different ages, so as to present the process of urban growth, trigger thoughts of visitors on urban density, and provide an interactive place for them.


3D Shenzhen ©UABB



Bird’s Eye View of the Installation

Density plays a significant role in urban space, which decides the basic urban morphology. It has been a crucial topic which relates to the supporting capacity of urban systems, as well as maximum development in the future. With the rapid growth of Shenzhen from a small fishing village into an international megacity, density changes also affect the quality of the city and even vicissitude. In the future, the distribution of density will influence the expectation of new immigrants. It is also the key point to reach how to develop with a sustainable way in high-density agglomeration pattern.


Design Process: Play with Density

The 1997 km² land area of Shenzhen is divided into 1997 grids of 1×1 km², and each grid is reduced to 300 mm³ as the exhibition base. With a traversable 3D model in pedestrian scale, “3D Shenzhen” allows visitors to perceive in person Shenzhen’s “half-city and half-green” layout. The structure features four gradually changing colors top-down to represent the city’s total building volume at four milestones. ( about 250 million square meters in 2000, 700 million square meters in 2010, 1.2 billion square meters in 2020 and 1.5 billion square meters in 2035. ) By visualizing the building volumes of each district at four milestones, the exhibit evokes visitors’ thoughts on the city’s evolution process.


Conceptual Diagram (by Zeng Xin and Guo Tian)

The size of each metal frame module is 300×300×300 mm, and each of them represents a building area of 400,000 m². Art installations created by Shenzhen citizens are placed in part of the cube frame. The project invited nearly 100 resident representatives of different occupations and ages from different districts of Shenzhen, including design professionals, artists, and students, to create city-themed “artistic cubes” in 30cm³ metal structures based on their life and working experience and express their thoughts on future development of Shenzhen. Meanwhile, paths paved with acupressure mats were also provided around the installation, with the green ones representing urban ecological space, and blue ones the coastlines of the city, to improve interaction experience.


3D Shenzhen ©UABB

Audience can scan the QR code on-site to enter the 3D simulation interface to experience the density partition human-computer interactions: with existing data model combined with science computing, as well as with large data and a custom module, the changing process of construction scale in Shenzhen is presented visually in the form of 3D model; participants can choose to learn the construction scale of any specific region.


Scan to Access the 3D Simulation Interface 



Public Interaction Generator (Photo by Wang Haina)

“3D Shenzhen” is not only for three-dimensional display but also represents three-dimensional reflection.


Spatial dimension: The experience and perception of space are derived from density, height, and scale. Density defines people’s basic living behaviors and daily perception; height is people’s direct impression of the city and the city skyline; and scale brings the urban places and environment back to the scope of human perception.


3D Shenzhen ©UABB

Time dimension: The imprints of time always remain and will never diminishes their charms. In the past four decades, Shenzhen has seen remarkable urban development and, unavoidably some regrets. The installation shows the development status at four milestones respectively in 2000s, 2010s, 2020s, and 2030s. With different dark or light color shades, visitors can discover the imprints of time, and, based on their personal experience, perceive the city’s past, present and future.


3D Shenzhen ©UABB

Value dimension: City provides spaces and places, while the poetic dwelling comes from thousands of citizens living there. The idea of “artistic cube” was not endorsed by the curator and even all members of the design team. But eventually this novel and straightforward concept conveys residents’ infinite imagination about their city and the infinite possibilities of future. A tour through the installation will surely bring some enlightening moments to visitors.


Some works of “Artistic Cube”



3D Shenzhen ©UABB

Discussion on density, scale and public spaces (Cui Chong)

●Density – growth limit & density control:

The population and spatial pressure have led to crowded Asian cities, among which Shenzhen is a typical high-density city worldwide. The nature has a limited capacity, and cities just cannot sprawl without control. As urban planners in Shenzhen, we never stop thinking about the development limit and rational density. The discussion on the future and growth should not take place only among the planning professionals, and this installation intends to enable the general public to perceive density and development and trigger discussion on urban development right.

Scale – Between city, place and human body:

Architects and urban planners usually start their professional learning from ergonomics and Corbusier’s modulor theory. But for cities, citizens live there but often get lost. The city has no open spaces or hills as in their hometowns of rural area. It is the places and public spaces (streets, squares, and parks) that help people discover the value of life. In a city of high density, spaces are compacted, especially those for private life and daily activities. One of my colleagues once said that he felt like bumping into Lilliput every time he came back to Shenzhen from his hometown. In this way, scale becomes an important measurement of sense. The design integrates the scales of the city and the exhibition venue, and is physically related to the human body, bringing people new perception and experience of fortuity and possibilities. Here, city is no longer about the faraway unknown future, but an installation that can be physically perceived at a place.

●Public spaces – Fast-growing places & inexpensive construction:

Compact, modern and diverse, the fast-growing city of Shenzhen has achieved world-renowned achievements in urban planning and construction. Green spaces and public venues further highlight the inclusiveness and humanistic care of the city. Yet, the judgment and choices of decision-makers, planners, and architects are not always the best for the city. This installation enables the general public to rethink the necessity and possibilities of “public nature”, as a city’s essential vitality comes from people’s life and activities.


Conception process

Work log of “3D Shenzhen” (by Wang Chengxu)

Over the past 20 years, facing the computer screen and bending over the drawing platform, we worked out countless 2D planning drawings for Shenzhen;

In recent five years, following up projects and making revisions over and over again, we developed a projected density distribution plan of Shenzhen;

Before the opening of UABB, laying wires horizontally on the ground and tying up the structure vertically, we built a 3D miniature of Shenzhen;

And finally in the past eight months, we received from 80 Shenzhen citizens their blueprints for future Shenzhen, including insights from adults and dreams from children.

Some Thoughts on Multi-dimensional Data (by Luo Yulin)

UABB gives us an opportunity to rethink the way to communicate with the general public using IT and urban planning vocabulary.

Based on the urban density analysis data and its characteristics, we divided the city into 1,997 units. To enhance the understanding of the general public, the units were simulated in grid that comprised of 30*30cm frames. The recyclable materials were superimposed with works of citizens, highlighting the city’s spirit of “innovation, eco-friendliness, openness, and sharing”.


Building and Testing

“The City for Us” (by Yan Liping)

We travel around with the help of mobile maps, work from home online, and have fun by the seaside. We marvel at the spectacular night view by the Mt. Lotus, and enjoy the cozy light at home…

But how will Shenzhen grow in the future?

A density model about the city’s future growth is built by the decision-makers and planners in a top-down manner. Yet the city will eventually be enriched by you, by me, and by each and every person who lives in the city, and those invisible designers in a bottom-up manner through our involvement, engagement, reflection and imagination.

This is our city, a city to be enriched by you and me!


Exhibition Set-up (Photo by Zeng Xin)

UABB and me (by Zeng Xin)

Maybe it was destiny. I encountered the first UABB the first year when I started to work in Shenzhen. To me, UABB is a high-profile exhibition. The exhibits reflect and interpret the cities today, and communicate messages about urban society, space and environment in artistic form. That’s so cool.  In 2019, we had the privilege to present our work “3D Shenzhen” in the 8th UABB. The work intends to present the urban space and density of Shenzhen from planners’ perspective. As a member of the design team, I was also able to reconnect myself with UABB.  


Deinstallation of 2019 UABB

My First Experience as a “Craftsman” (by Weng Jincheng)

This time I had the chance to be a “craftsman” that “stacks blocks’.

As the huge container trucks drew in MOCAUP at Fuzhong Road around midnight, we could finally turn our “2D”design drawing into a “3D” model. Handling freight boxes larger than a person in the Shenzhen Civil Center late at night, “stacking blocks” at main entrance of MOCAUP watched by a big crowd of curious visitors, having lunch with the team under the tree shade on the square, and interacting efficiently with the workers at site… The experience in these three days is both sweating and joyful. It is so valuable for me who works on an office desk most of the time.I will continue to fulfill my mission as an “urban planner working with the government”.

“The most important thing for a city is not architecture but planning (by Leoh Ming Pei).” “The first requisite to happiness is that a man be born, work and live in a famous city (adapted from Euripides’ quote).” “We will continue to provide the best urban planning service for the sustainable development of Shenzhen and the wellbeing of citizens (the mission of Shenzhen Urban Planning & Land Resource Research Center).”


Deinstallation of Railway Station Blocks


Outdoor Reuse Works

We considered the possibility of material recycling at the beginning of design, avoiding foundation construction, earthwork or damage to the surface of the square. Meanwhile, all structure units were pre-fabricated and installed on the site manually, free from on-site processing, tools or devices involving water or electricity, or installation of water and electricity pipelines.

Indoor Reuse Works

After exhibition was moved out, the reuses were diversified along with the growing imagination and interest of people, including flower shelves, partitions for indoor areas and public art works for outdoor areas. The re-combination of the units is actually an extension of the density cube experiment.


Outdoor Reuse Works

3D Shenzhen


Shenzhen Urban Planning & Land Resources Research Center

Team Members

Chief Curator: DAI Qing

Project Supervisor: ZHOU Jin, WANG Chengxu

Design Team: CUI Chong, GUO Tian, ZENG Xin, WENG Jincheng,YAN Liping, WU Zhiyue

Data Team: SUN Lei, LUO Yulin, RAO Xin, QIU Mengqi

Technical Advisor: GU Xin, LU Jia, YANG Chengyun, ZHANG Lijuan, ZHOU Jun, DENG Qi

Implementation guarantee: LIU Huijie, QIU Lin, GUO Mei, ZHANG Yingyan, CHEN Bao, GAO Junyan, LI Gongwei, ZHOU Haizhou

Construction Team: LIN Yan, WAN Xuechao, MIU Diyou, YE Kai, RAO Xin, ZHAO Yang, LIANG Kai, 

SU Qitong, FU Wenchen, SU Guangming, YU Wenque, ZHAO Yang

Intern: REN Yi

Installation Collaborators: China Construction Science & Technology Group Co., Ltd, Shenzhen Branch, LVGEM Group

Data Collaborators: MetroDataTech

Security Assistance: Shenzhen Nuode Property Management Co., Ltd.

Source: 2019 UABB Team of Shenzhen Urban Planning & Land Resource Research Center

By Cui Chong



THEME | Urban Interactions

MAIN VENUE | Futian Railway Station & Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning

SUB-VENUE | Sha Tau Kok Bonded Zone of Yantian District, Bao'an International Art Exhibition Center, Qiaotou Community of Bao’ao District, Ban Xue Gang Hi-Tech Zone of Longgang District, Guanlan Ancient Market of Longgang District, Guangming Cloud Valley, Dapeng Fortress of Dapeng New District, Xichong of Dapeng New District, and Qianhai Cooperation Zone