BACA Architects
Shanghai Future City
Liverpool Docks

Shanghai Future City


Baca's LifE approach was used to balance growth against flood-risk management and the adoption of eco-design into the future of Shanghai through  an integrated plan for the future of the city and its regions. Existing settlements, which are located on higher ground in the lower flood-risk areas, were chosen for the new satellite cities. These would be connected by a mixed transport network and communication links to create a mega-city. To respond to the rising sea level, land use would be allocated according to current and future vulnerability by adopting a medium-term licence to enable active use of spaces until such time that it becomes uneconomic to manage the flood risk. This water-based mega-city could potentially accommodate several hundred million people and simultaneously embrace the changing climate.

Four key principles have been applied to the Shanghai future mega‑city:


Resilient City

The city is formed of interconnected satellite towns rather than a singular central city. As an integrated and dispersed system, it will be inherently more resilient to natural or man-made disasters. Each satellite will have connections to neighbouring and remote satellite cities so that if one route or power connection is compromised, others will be available.


City Rotation

To best use the interstitial land between the satellite towns, temporary licences could be granted for industry or commerce to use high-risk areas; these would then be changed to lower vulnerability uses as the sea levels rise and the risk increases. Agricultural uses may change to industrial areas, energy farms or landscape and then finally waterways. Floating structures may be used to maintain uses in critical areas that are transformed to make space for water.


Water Utilisation

By embracing sea level rise, shallow and deep waterways can be used as conduits for infrastructure, thus turning threat into opportunity. High flood-risk areas could be artificially flooded to create space for water between towns. These could double as waterways for data highways, energy corridors and high‑speed transport with links to offshore air- and seaports. Land for fresh water storage would be preserved within the satellite towns for the future when low-lying areas are realigned.


Transitional zones

 Land in the highest flood-risk areas could be incrementally transformed into wetlands, to provide storm and pollution buffers for the mega-city and replace habitat lost elsewhere. Energy farms may be integrated with wetlands and storm buffers. Transitional land on the periphery of the satellite towns may be used for water harvesting, water treatment, cooling and wildlife. These zones could be used for future development should technologies be improved sufficiently.


Shanghai Future City

Once sea levels have risen by several metres, the city is formed from a series of satellite towns with the existing Shanghai in the centre. A new floating airport and deep-water port is built at the mouth of the Yangtze, close to Pudong International Airport. In the foreground a new floating facility located within Hangzhou Bay creates an international leisure destination linking Shanghai, Ningbo and Hangzhou. This enables coastal areas to be transformed into interstitial wetlands, artificial corals and oyster beds without interrupting navigation.

A series of blue/green waterways run between the satellites, straddled by road and rail networks to provide a hierarchical network of transport interchanges. Between the satellites, high-risk areas are used for industry, with the waterways providing economic routes for heavy goods transportation to the rest of the city and the deep-water ports. Offshore floating solar farms (designed to move with the waves) are linked to high-altitude wind turbines and energy-producing tidal barrages; together they form a distributed and interconnected renewable energy system. The city is planned to enable sustainable growth with cycles of development linked to climate change.

Liverpool Docks
Dover Waterfront

Baca Architects is led by Richard Coutts.  We are specialised in architecture, urban planning and research related to living, working and recreation on water.



T:          (+44) 020 7397 5620 


A:          199 Long Lane, London, SE1 4PN


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Baca Architects
Baca Architects