Duplitecture – Chinese Architectural Copies
In 2013, construction at a blisteringly fast pace will continue in China much as it has done for the last decade. Outstripping the rest of the world in demand for raw materials and scale of works undertaken, the mind boggles at the sheer speed at which the world’s most populous nation is urbanising. It’s predicted that by 2025, China will construct cities, or add to existing urban areas to house a further 400 million people, more than the population of the US. With such incredible rates of construction, it would seem inevitable that the odd case of copied buildings would emerge. In modern China however, it seems that the concept of copying famous architecture is not just something that occurs now and again, but rather a task undertaken on a truly impressive scale.
At the end of January, Bianca Bosker’s ‘Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China’ will be realised, giving us a greater insight into this ever more present vein within Chinese architecture. Is it flattery? Perhaps criminal? One thing is for sure; China’s hunger for more urban areas seems likely to ensure no end in sight to this architectural plagiarism.
Here is a brief rundown of some of the more brassen examples of duplitecture in China.
Paris / Tianducheng
Paris without the Parisians? Possible in this nearly finished city for 200,000 just outside Shanghai. The town boasts landscaped gardens, Parisian style boulevards and cafe’s, along with replicas of the French capitals most famous sites; The Arc De Triomphe, The Palace of Versaille and of course the Eiffel Tower. At 108m tall, it would be dwarfed by the original, perhaps an appreciative nod to the supreme quality of the original?
Great photos of Tianducheng
Hallstatt Austria / Hallstatt China
A Unesco World Heritage listing brings with it so many benefits; increased tourism, a nice shiny plaque, bragging rights. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to stop others from wanting their own slice of Unesco Austrian village Pie, minus the Unesco. The picturesque Austrian village of Hallstatt, with its 943 residents was so adored by one Chinese development company, that they decided to survey the entire village, in secret, and build an EXACT copy, in the Guangdong province. This whole process has some up in arms, with Hans-Jörg Kaiser from Icomos Austria, the national board for monument preservation under UNESCO saying “The legal situation still needs to be examined,” he said. Building new structures based on photographs is legal, he explained, but owners must give their permission for them to be measured”. It’s not all bad though, tourism from China has nearly doubled!
Traditional English Village / Thames Town
For a change, this developer decided not to create a replica of a traditional English town, but rather capture the architecturally pervasive style of the English market town. Drawing on the idea of the high street, the village green, war memorial and village church amongst others, Thames Town is a new town 30km outside Shanghai, designed to be China’s very own English village. This development was part of the larger, One City, Nine Towns initiative. The “one city” of this policy was Songjiang New City, with Thames town being one of the nine satellite towns surrounding it. The “nine towns” of the policy were each sited in one of the other suburban districts of Shanghai, and each was also given their own theme. Other Western themes which were used included Scandinavian, Italian, Spanish, Canadian, Dutch and German.
Manhattan / Yujiapu
Surely not? Well, apparently so. Not content with creating a small Austrian village, or a mini Paris, developer Vincent Lee is quite literally creating a copy of Manhattan, and assuming financing doesn’t become a massive issue, he may well succeed. The project is equal parts ambition and blatant copying, yet as the photos below show, work is progressing. Soon, the travel agent may need you to confirm exactly which country you mean when you say you wish to visit Manhattan!