In Pictures: The Hong Kong & Shenzhen That Could Have Been

Feb 02, 2021
Hong Kong Skyline

Just the Pearl River and a 15-minute train ride separate Shenzhen and Hong Kong, two of China’s economic powerhouses that have gone head-to-head in a battle to build the biggest, fastest and most extravagant structures. The two megacities have produced some of the most unique and stunning pieces of architecture over the last 40 years, but the cityscapes could also be very different. There have been many ambitious projects that never made it past the planning stage from monumental skyscrapers, to eco-friendly masterpieces and even bold cable car transport links.

So just how different would these two bustling metropolises look today? Bringing some of the most intriguing and extravagant projects to life using 3D rendering techniques, this is the Hong Kong and Shenzhen that could have been…

Kowloon MTR Tower – Hong Kong

The International Commerce Centre is one of the most iconic skyscrapers in Hong Kong. Completed in 2010, it stands proudly overlooking Victoria Harbour at a staggering 1,588 ft, making it the tallest building in Hong Kong. It could have had a very different life, however.


Plans to build the Kowloon MTR Tower had initially been planned on the site of the Union Square project on top of Kowloon Station, and would have stood around 300ft higher than the tower standing there today, with 102 floors.


The building, which would have hosted a hotel and offices, was scheduled to have been completed in 2003, but plans were completely cancelled in 2005, paving the way for the International Commerce Centre.

Architecturally, the building would have been significantly different to the majestic 108-storey building that stands today, with a tube-structure and a spire similar to the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

Click the image below to see how Hong Kong's iconic harbour would look had the Kowloon MTR Tower been built.

Sai Kung Cable Car System - Hong Kong

Hong Kong has long tried to promote the Sai Kung area of the special administrative region of China, and plans to build theme parks, restaurants, zoos, marinas, and aquariums were all part of the $3billion proposal to transform the uninhabited islands of Kau Sai Chau, Urn Island, Tiu Chung Chau and Sharp Island.

In order to connect the islands to each other, along with the mainland, a 10-kilometre cable car system was proposed and backed by many international experts. The system would have stretched from Sai Kung to High Island reservoir, and to this day, would have still been the longest cable car system in the world.

The system itself was scheduled to be built in 1996 by the same engineers who designed Singapore’s Sentosa Island cable car system but work never began. A decade on, however, cable cars did eventually land in Hong Kong to the west of the city on Lantau Island, connecting Tung Chung to Ngong Ping.


How would life have looked if you could hop around Sai Kung via cable car?

Asian Cairns – Shenzhen

There have been dozens of skyscrapers erected across Shenzhen over the last 40 years, but in March 2013 designs of a new ‘farmscraper’ planned to revolutionise the city. The concept was designed to provide eco-friendly living in the heart of Shenzhen, with six towers aiming to repatriate the countryside in the city. Each tower would contain 20 pods which would be their own natural ecosystems, with the pebble shaped pods each containing their own housing community. All energy would be provided by the sun and wind, with any waste produce then recycled and fed back into the ecosystem.


The plans were lauded worldwide upon their release, creating sustainable living in densely populated cities, but for almost a decade there has been little talk of the project ever breaking ground.


Click to uncover just how incredible eco-friendly living would look in the heart of Shenzhen.

Nexus Tower – Shenzhen

There’s still a chance we may one day see the Nexus Tower, standing 1,952ft high overlooking the city of Shenzhen. Located next to Lizhi Park, the building was part of a wider plan, which would also welcome the Lizhi Park Office Tower across the road. The Nexus Tower would be the centrepiece of that and would be the 18th tallest building in the world if built.


It would replace the Kingkey Oriental Regent Hotel on the crossroads between Shannan E Road and Hongling S Road and would include office and retail space and a hotel, with glorious views over the park.

Take a view of how the Nexus Tower complex would look from Lizhi Park.

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Explore the London and New York That Could Have Been

Many cities across the world have seen extravagant plans that never quite made it past the planning stage. From complete renovations of Roosevelt Island to an airport along the Hudson River and monorails along the historic streets of London, explore the London and New York That Could Have Been by clicking the links below.