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Fig: 1 - Qiandao Lake is an artificial lake with more than 1000 large islands covered almost entirely with forests. (Credit: Chinese National Geography)


The wonders of the underwater world have been a site of interest to humankind for all these years. Experiencing rich marine habitats and the diverse life forms firsthand is a unique encounter. Over the course of time, many human-made elements and ruins have also occupied space in these habitats, which make for equally impressive sights to explore.

Shi Cheng is an ancient city belonging to the Zhejiang Province of China. This city has been in existence for over 1300 years. At present this city is submerged completely underwater of an artificial lake known as Qiandao Lake.

The historic city belongs to the Eastern Han Dynasty of AD 208. The site was rediscovered in the last decade and efforts are being made to document the preserves in their entirety. It’s a remnant of the area’s cultural past and it must be made accessible to the public.

Fig: 2 - Shi Cheng ancient city was found to have prevailed underwater. (Credits: Chinese National Geography)


In the mid 20th century, a dam project was proposed in the valley of the Wu Shi Mountain. The purpose of the Xin’an River Dam Project was to provide hydroelectric power to the power grid of the Hangzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing, and the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) delta region.

The construction of this large dam was a testament to advanced Chinese technology. To create the reservoir of this dam, the ancient city of Shi Cheng, located at the foot of the mountain, had to be flooded. And so, the Qiandao Lake was created. The submergence of the city was thought to be a mistake at the time. But as it turns out, the water-filled in the reservoir has managed to protect most of the city’s structure.

The scale of the city is extensive and most of it is in the process of being discovered. The city is to have 265 arches and five towers and gates with sculptures and carvings. The relics are under the protection of professionals at the moment but it is in the process of opening up its doors for visitors and diving enthusiasts.

Fig: 3 - The exploration of the city has been practiced by professionals for a long time now but tourist facilities are missing. (Credits: Chinese National Geography via Animal World)


The underwater city of Shi Cheng is often referred to as the ‘Atlantis of the East. Its ruins have managed to prevail gloriously for all these centuries so its potential as a wide-open tourist destination is to be explored.

Brief: The challenge is to design a tourist centre on Qiandao Lake for the exploration of the submerged Shi Cheng City.

The aim of the tourist centre is to tell the story of the unseen, submerged city. Water construction techniques and materials are to be explored. The visitors centre must extend on the water to provide a clear view of the city for people not willing to go diving. The diving facility is an important feature.

The proposed design must in no way impact the ruins of the city below. The effect of the construction on the lake must be kept to a minimum. Interactive media can be employed to enhance the experience of tourist spots.


Access: The centre must provide access to all users without inflicting damage on the environment.

Harmony: The design must establish some harmony or connection with the surroundings while having outstanding features.

Landmark: The visual impact must be exemplary with standout features.

Context: The design must respond to the (existing) site conditions. The wider socio-cultural, economic and environmental settings are to be considered in the design approach.


The site is Qiandao Lake in China. The area of the lake is 573 square kilometres. It is known as the ‘thousand island lake’ since it consists of 1078 large islands and a few thousand smaller islands. The scattered islands occupy around 86 square kilometres. The ruins of the city Shi Change are located 20-40 metres below the lake.

The site is a small island part of the archipelago. The island is uninhabited with uneven terrain and offers wide views of the lake all around. A bridge can be used to connect the tourist centre to a nearby hub.

Site area = 3223 sq.m
Height Restriction = 8 metres
Coordinates = 29°33'15.8"N 118°56'38.3"E


The following programmatic outline is the point to begin your design at. You can add more functions and activities in relevance or modify the above design programme

Utilities (Restaurants, Cafeteria, Toilets, Reception, Storage) ~ 300 sq.m
Media Theatre ~ 100 sq.m
Museum and Exhibition Gallery ~ 200 sq.m
Viewing Deck ~ 100 sq.m
Diving centre ~ 50 sq.m
Viewing Dock ~ 20 sq.m
Administration ~ 100 sq.m