"Landscape architecture as a profession that manages fluidity, can play a central role in facilitating such transitions. With further studies of ways to manage wetness, landscape architecture can break from colonial ideologies and celebrate the dynamic third space."

The objective of this research thesis is to navigate water as a matter of both partition and connection, and river as a site of both boundary and memory. This project speculates the materiality of the border between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China and Shenzhen (Mainland China), to convey the history of the frontier area and to envision its future transformation. Focusing on the Shenzhen River, a fluid boundary that separates two administrative areas, this thesis interrogates how the fluidity of water operates with its administrative function as a border. Based on an investigation of the existing management of fluidity, the design proposal aims to overcome the binary of water and land and to situate Shenzhen River as a third territory with a fluid narrative.

This undergraduate honor thesis is available to view via Cornell eCommons.

Xuezhen Xie, BSLA ’20


LA 4960 Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Maria Goula, Faculty Advisor


Spring 2020

Territory of Hong Kong: Water as Void

This map illustrates the common representation of territory of Hong Kong, which is based on land. Ocean is seen as a site of “disappearance,” seemingly outside of the territorial and legislative limitations of the state. The tradition of land reclamation in Hong Kong to acquire more space for development has inferred water as void and rendered territory as transient. The instability of the territory is added by the fear of losing land back to the sea due to global sea level rise.

Evolution of Border: Timeline

The border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen (mainland China) is fluid in many ways. Firstly, the border is embodied by Shenzhen River and materialized through the flows of water. Secondly, the connotation and materiality of border are shaped by the constantly changing macro environment. This series of maps aim to capture how the function and materiality of the border change in the broader historical and political context.

River as Territory

The overlay of trace of historical system and today’s remained waterscape illustrates the dynamic change of the system. It registers the river as a territory not restricted within the boundaries where water meets land at present, and signifies revealed potential for the future.

Water Garden Concept

Fish ponds are significant land forms that constitute the identity of the region. This scenario envisions fish ponds as a unifying land form that stitches the communities from both sides together. Various activities like swimming or cultivating can happen in the pond, which allows the river to reintegrate into public lives.