Guangzhou Historic Town Conceptual Framework Plan

SOM’s City Design Practice has developed a comprehensive plan to revitalize Guangzhou’s Old Town as a priceless asset for the city. With a systematic and integrated approach balancing historic preservation, modern reinvestment, and community revitalization, the plan seeks to enrich the lives of Guangzhou residents and to maximize the potential of this area as a premier destination for visitors. Located in the city’s western area, about 10 kilometers from the Tianhe Central Business District, Old Town will showcase Guangzhou’s identity as a historic trading post on the maritime Silk Road, as well as an important modern transportation hub and economic center—a city with 2,000 years of culture and 1,000 years of commercial prosperity.

A coordinated action plan reimagines Old Town as a district of desirable and walkable neighborhoods, transformed into an attractive live-work-play destination for young people. It calls for reestablishing the city’s historic water-town character by restoring its ecology, including reopening canals that have been covered by urban development. The plan seeks to bring new energy and dynamism to the district and better integrate it into Guangzhou’s economy and tourism industry.

SOM's vision offers principles, near-term actions, and longer-term goals to achieve an authentic, livable and walkable new Old Town. The framework divides Old Town into three cultural districts, integrated by primary and secondary trails with wayfinding systems. Importantly, neighborhood and business regeneration should be integrated and simultaneous, with a holistic plan combining heritage preservation and infill development. Community micro-regeneration projects should be bundled for efficiency and impact. Finally, Old Town should be ambitiously reinvigorated for citizens and visitors with a wide variety of activities: neighborhood cultural and creative activities, larger-scale historic and heritage programs, and major events that will attract people to historic Guangzhou from throughout the province, the nation, and the world.