Shenzhen's Towering City Within a City Will Battle a Tide of Smog

By Alissa Walker on at

A few years ago, you'd probably never heard of Shenzhen. Now the tiny Chinese fishing village has grown into a certified megalopolis, with 10 million residents, a thriving tech industry, and a gorgeous world-class airport. To cement its rising status in the world economy, Shenzhen has announced its most ambitious project yet: A green "super city" within the city, complete with what would be the world's second-tallest tower.

Shenzhen held the Shenzhen Bay Super City competition to envision an architectural future for its most prime waterfront real estate. Two design firms, Urban Future Organization and CR-design, worked with Swedish regenerative design researchers at Chalmers Technical University on the winning proposal, called "Cloud Citizen," which, from some angles, looks a lot like Cloud City, if you ask me.

Shenzhen's Towering City Within a City Will Battle a Tide of Smog

The location of the Shenzhen super city is incredibly strategic. Instead of rising in the city centre, it faces down the towers of Hong Kong just across the bay. The area will also serve as an important cooperative economic zone between the two metropolises, shifting the city's business district to this vast zone of industrial and financial resources. And it is vast: It's about 87 acres, and 16 million square feet of development.

Shenzhen's Towering City Within a City Will Battle a Tide of Smog

Shenzhen means business, presumably why the city desires such an imposing (and innovative) structure to communicate this importance to everyone around it. The tallest tower is proposed to reach a height of 2,230 feet, which would make it the second-tallest building on the planet.

Shenzhen's Towering City Within a City Will Battle a Tide of Smog

Not to ignore the environmental impact of such a huge project, the development is claiming several audacious ecological features. The building will harvest rainwater and include energy generation systems using the sun, wind and algae. The building itself will serve as an air filtration device to temper the region's famously smoggy summers.

Shenzhen's Towering City Within a City Will Battle a Tide of Smog

The most prominent feature of Cloud Citizen is a series of cantilevered spaces which connect diagonally to the towers across the way. These are leafy terraces meant to provide relaxation and recreation areas throughout the high-rises, keeping residents and workers connected to nature, even as they work high above the actual greenspaces below.

Shenzhen's Towering City Within a City Will Battle a Tide of Smog

Here's the statement from the winning proposal: "Cloud Citizen is as much a strategy for how to build future cities capable of giving back more to the environment than they cost, as it is a singular iconographic mega building complex with an identifiable and striking skyline giving character and hope to the vision of a greener future enabled by human enterprise."

Shenzhen's Towering City Within a City Will Battle a Tide of Smog

If it feels as if the internet is heavily peppered with outlandish (some might say outrageous) ideas for megadevelopments these days, I would say that you're right—take, for example, the entire city Qatar is building for the World Cup. But the most striking thing about this super city concept is that while it certainly sounds futuristic, it looks fragmented.

Shenzhen's Towering City Within a City Will Battle a Tide of Smog

From some angles, you can't even tell if it's rising or crumbling. It's like a half-finished Death Star, a hulking idea left over from a crippled regime, its most critical functions not quite operational. I suppose that's the most perfect metaphor for a place like the Shenzhen Bay Super City—the true power of these instacities has yet to be seen. [design boom]

Images by UFO and CR-design for the Shenzhen Bay Super City competition.