On our second day, we were recommended to visit a new high-end development called OCT Harbor or sometimes referred to as a Happy Bay. The project is located in the west part of Shenzhen, Nanshan District – the center for high-tech industries.

OCT Harbor

Since the metro line is still under construction, we arrived at the site by taxi. We were greeted by a giant stainless steel egg situated to the side of large deserted plaza. We had a hunch that it is a building and had hoped it has a purpose too. Apparently it will be an exhibition center with an entrance at the very back of it; another public space devote of public. Here, as in so many other places, we found provisions for water features with no water in them. My attention, however, had shifted to people taking a break in the shade. The development is still under construction and rows of temporary housing for workers are just across the street. I have typically seen 1-story construction trailers used elsewhere in the world, although in China’s case even the construction trailers are high density with 3 stories.

As we were walking through the development, we wondered who the end users were. It seemed obvious that it was for the high end development since the prices at restaurants were beyond what any of us could afford. It had a nice human scale to it and our hope was that over time, as it aged, it will be more accessible to all. It was still very hot, yet one can see that when weather cools down, outdoor restaurant located at the water edge would be packed with visitors. The development’s architecture does remind one in its form and style of a contemporary interpretation of Chinese traditional approach. Somewhere beyond the development was a Mangrove reserves and wetlands. I was thinking about the impact tourist industry is making on those places.

Short video can be found at:

OCT Loft

New developments are taking place all over Shenzhen. It looks like the city will never stop growing. Fortunately not all of it is about taking over new territories. Numbers of sites are designated Urban Renewal areas. Since the focus has heavily shifted to creative industries and service, old industrial facilities often demolished and replaced with new land uses, yet some successful cases exist of rehabilitating those buildings and turning neighborhoods to vibrant communities. OCT Loft, originally developed as an artists’ live/work spaces, attracted large expatriate community. Walking along the European scale streets, one does not feel that they are overseas.

Art galleries occupy ground floors of old multi-story factories. Old equipment is displayed as art pieces and located at building entrances and along the streets. Sculptures and murals on the walls of rehabilitated buildings in the public setting make it a pleasant walkable environment. Those are the areas that can make you easily confuse Shenzhen with Portland.


Both previous developments were recommended for us to look at.  Shekou, on the other hand, we found accidently. Teal and I were headed to Macau for the weekend and had couple of hours to explore. Shekou is adjacent to the Ferry Terminal neighborhoods and that is how we discovered it. Later I learned that Shekou is largely an expatriate residential community very much like OCT Loft. The scale of the streets, sidewalks, and entrances is just perfect and invites one to spend the time strolling along and feeling good within urban realm.

Buildings were masterfully refurbished to accommodate new uses. One can see number of sustainable features implemented: shading devises, operable windows, green walls and there might be more, I just did not have enough time to explore the development thoroughly.

Both, Teal and I, were happy to see a father and son taking over the road on their bikes. Mother and daughter were playing badminton on small play area, the adjacent to sidewalk. There were almost no cars, only few parked near buildings on pervious paving. It was Sunday morning, so it is hard to tell if it is different during working week. I have also seen unobtrusively parking garage entrances, making me believe that cars are tucked underground. We have seen bikes for rent lined up on a side of a building and personal bikes in few other locations.

Additional set of slides for all three developments can be found at:

Those are not typical residential developments in Shenzhen and I will try to expand on the housing theme in separate posting.


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