Sanya Southbay Waterfront Master Plan


  • Location: Sanya, China

Project Information

Initially envisioned by officials as a purely residential community, the design team recognized the locational importance of the historic inner harbor site and its potential to again become the center of the city, and proposed a far more comprehensive land use and transit strategy. The plan transforms fractured marine-front roadways into ‘Wharf Circle Drive’, a handsome landscaped and walkable loop that includes jogging trails and tramways.  The drive captures the energy of otherwise isolated developments and adds to the vibrant mixed use development program which includes a hillside residential community with ocean views, a waterfront fisherman’s village, an entertainment center, sports center, yacht club and yacht villa community a hotel, spa and service apartments.

The plan connects with the past through a ‘history walk’ public art program that informs visitors about the beginnings of Sanya as a fishing village and the lifestyle of its people. The design also provides free replacement housing for existing residents, and owners of local shops are offered equal or better replacements within the new development.

The planning strategy that underlies the achievements of this project can be seen as a model for professionals in our field to follow: It is that there are always opportunities to improve the status quo by making relatively modest regulatory changes that can be demonstrated to be in the public interest, and that at the same time offer some commercial benefit to private investment, which in turn grows the local tax base.

The urban design strategy that could offer lessons at a large urban scale is that each of the sub-components of the overall plan have been given the same kind of individual freedom and attention that they would have had if they been independent projects. This approach to deconstructing large scaled projects has several benefits. It avoids the single design stamp that users understand represents ‘controlled environment’, rather than ‘organic and accessible.’ It avoids arbitrary and often boring aesthetic sameness; it makes it easier for parts to change over time and even to be replaced without diminution of the whole. This more modest approach to ‘form’ acknowledges the richness and complexity of urban environments, and achieves what urbanists ought to aspire to, which is to renew the city in a manner that reflects and reinforces its essential character. For Sanya, that means invigorating and activating its bay front with as little apparent change as possible.