A Chinese Paris?

14 May

A shocking new trend has arisen with new architectural developments in China, with designers and developers being accused of replicating famous sites and creations from around the world in their own country. One of the best known, and perhaps more confusing of examples, is the copy of Parisian town houses and Eiffel Tower, on the fringe of Hangzhou. Many photographers find these imitations fascinating, and slightly eerie due to their uncanny resemblance. Many have described them as “counterfeit” and feeling like they portray a desire of the Chinese to become more involved in contemporary society, making their urban areas seem “modern and harmonious”. Many witnesses feel that, in partaking in these developments, they are losing part of their heritage and culture, by exchanging their traditional designs for more Westernised architecture. Some feel it is a shame that the Chinese feel that they need to replicate ideas, as tourists and locals alike have always been interested in and proud of the unique type of buildings that China has to offer, and it is surprising that they feel they have to duplicate architectural structures in order to keep up with competition. Many argue that they look out of character within China and seem unoriginal.

However, critics of this viewpoint state that the Chinese replicating such sites as the Eiffel Tower is no different to the similar version of the same structure in Las Vegas. They argue that Western countries often reproduce architectural designs, and it is considered to be acceptable, yet the Chinese following the same process causes confusion. Perhaps this is because of cultural differences between China and the West, with certain things being viewed as acceptable in one place and not in the other. It will be interesting to see, however, whether this development of Westernised structures continues, and to what extent.



2 Responses to “A Chinese Paris?”

  1. ags2g09 May 14, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    This certainly is an interesting concept! It is not just single landmarks (such as the Eiffel Tower) that are replicated – in the Songjiang District (which is about 30km from central Shanghai), a whole town (known as Thames Town, taking its name from the River Thames in London) has been created with Western architecture its focal point of design. Costing 5 billion yuan to construct, it was completed in 2006 over an area of 1 square kilometre and designed to house 10,000 people. It is typically English, with cobbled streets, Victorian terraces and even corner shops. Some buildings are direct replicas of their English counterparts – such as the church, which is based on Christ Church, Clifton Downs in Bristol.

    Thames Town is part of Songjiang New City – a city constructed as part of the tenth five-year plan (2001-2005), with the ‘One City, Nine Towns’ initiative aimed at drawing the population away from a crowded central Shanghai. Interestingly, the ‘nine towns’ of the initiative also have some Western influence – to date, architectural influence has been taken from Scandinavia, Italy, Spain, Canada, Holland and Germany.

    It would seem that the trend will continue, then. But why? It does not seem that the town has been well received by the Chinese – though it is true to suggest that the houses all sold rapidly, it was mainly as a result of investment from wealthy families, seeking to use the properties as second homes. The proportion of people taking up permanent residence was low, and indeed led Julie Zeveloff of Business Insider to comment that Thames Town is ‘virtually a ghost town’.

    The town has been used for special occasions – its picturesque backdrop has, for example, been used for wedding photography. However, it is hard to imagine that entire towns can be constructed whose only use is for an occasional photo hotspot. It would seem that most of China agree with the former view presented in the article above – so why are the towns so popular with architects and designers? Indeed, Robin Banerji points out in his article, ‘China’s ghost towns and phantom malls’, that a similar construct is being suggested near Beijing.

    What’s the point? Is it a peculiar admiration of Western culture on behalf of the architects? Is it an attempt to attract tourism? The true answer is unclear.

  2. st24g10 May 15, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    China hasn’t only replicated the Eiffel Tower, but architects have also produced the Arc de Triomphe and the notorious fountain in the gardens of the Palace of Versaille, as part of their conquest to build their own version of the French city. Chinese architects and development planners are claiming that they are trying to recreate a European lifestyle and image without actually having to leave the comforts of their own country. So much so that a gated community called Tianducheng, just outside Shanghai, has been created whereby up to 100,000 Chinese can live in Parisian style buildings with their own Paris inspired gardens.

    France isn’t the only country which has a place in the heart of the Chinese, as Italian and German towns are also under construction across China.

    Source: http://metro.co.uk/2007/09/21/china-builds-its-own-eiffel-tower-179932/

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