SWA Group Wins International Design Competition for Ecological Science and Technology City Along Guangzhou’s Pearl River

San Francisco (June 26, 2023)—SWA Group announces its recent win of an international competition to re-envision a section of the Pearl River as a new city centered around ecological and social vibrancy. Recognized by the Panyu District Branch of the Guangzhou City Planning and Natural Resources Bureau, SWA’s forward-looking design aims to cultivate diverse ecological infrastructure, maintain Lingnan culture, safeguard and adaptively reuse industrial heritage, and provide a plethora of outdoor facilities.


“We are pleased to have been selected for this important work,” said Principal-in-Charge and lead designer James Lee, who is based in SWA’s San Francisco studio. “Our proposal addresses the rich complexity of the area’s history, culture, and geographic resources, supporting existing communities while looking to the future of technology and innovation.”


The proposed design introduces a flexible framework for the community’s public open spaces, deeply rooted in nature and ecological sustainability. The riverbank green belt is sectioned into seven landscape zones, each with a unique character informed by the planned land: the Natural Experience Exploration Area, Water Entertainment Leisure Area, Riverside Community Park Area, International Conference Area, Central Axis Gateway Exhibition Area, Newly Created Liangcang Wetland Area, and University Research Experiment Area.


The Pearl River, much like other major waterways globally, has always been a hub for industry, commerce, culture, art, and recreation. The Guangzhou Ecological Science and Technology City initiative provides a platform to transform this rich past into a sustainable development model. “Looking at Guangzhou’s larger Pearl River conditions, the north bank channel presents a dynamic urban waterfront reflecting the City’s cultural and economic vitality and success,” said Lee. “By contrast, the south bank channel presents a unique opportunity to capture a softer, more relaxed riparian-based ecology.”

Industrial heritage will be protected and promoted, focusing on adaptive reuse. Existing industrial structures will be transformed into new facilities, such as turning an oil tank into a conference center and a seasonal wetland park for river restoration. A new community park will include various playgrounds for children and fitness facilities, encouraging healthy lifestyles and quality parent-child interaction.


The central axis of Innovation City emphasizes connectivity, urban ecology innovation, and various collaborative spaces that embody the modern Lingnan spirit. It links the Gateway Exhibition Area to the riverside green belt, connects rainwater garden squares beneath urban forest canopies to the south, and leads to the undulating South Park at the southernmost end, which acts as a connecting node to a larger agricultural landscape. This comprehensive plan enhances adjacent land use, diverse urban functions, convenient transportation, and the attractive environment of the Central Axis. Ultimately, this approach will result in a garden-like social center that encourages interpersonal interaction.


SWA’s proposal shines a spotlight on the area’s waterways, seeing them as vital nature corridors tied to public spaces and programs essential for a thriving tech innovation community. The design promises to showcase the local ecology’s natural cycles, regenerative qualities, and its inherent beauty and serenity to both residents and visitors. “Our goal is to embed nature into the everyday fabric and rituals of life throughout the new tech innovation city, and especially along the riverbank and interior channel corridors,” said Lee.  “Moving forward, we anticipate and welcome the community’s input and suggestions to refine and advance our ideas in making this new vision for public open space in Guangzhou a reality.”


About SWA


Founded in 1960, SWA is a world-renowned, 100% employee-owned landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm with a mission to design for a more livable world. We believe that the public realm is an essential part of the infrastructure of great cities, and design parks, streets, plazas, and open space in ways that foster vitality, equity, and resilience. The firm’s work varies in scale and character in keeping with each project’s particular setting and client aspirations. SWA has studios in Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Laguna Beach, New York, San Francisco, Sausalito, and Shanghai. For more information, please visit www.swagroup.com.


Media Contacts:


Michelle DiLello

Blue Medium, Inc.




Liz Batchelder

SWA Group