Thames Town, Shanghai, China. All photos: Getty Images.
The history of architecture is synonymous with plagiarism.
From the earliest architectural offerings, civilizations and empires have directly appropriated the forms of the culture that preceded them. Greece copied early wooden temples, the Etruscans took from the Greeks, the Romans copied both, and the Renaissance took from all. And since the Industrial Revolution, the world has seen an even greater proliferation of transplanted iconic architectural works. The Crystal Palace witnessed at least three iterations in as many sites, Venice became the world’s most replicable urban environment as entertainment, and the Parthenon is in Nashville and as a completed version, no less. It’s unnecessary to mention either Las Vegas or Disney.
China’s activity in the architectural copying game has rapidly increased over the past decade. More recently, Le Corbusier’s landmark chapel at Ronchamp was brutally (yes…) copied in Zhengzhou, standing only a couple of years before it was demolished in 2006. In Huaxi, China’s richest and most communist village, an architectural petting zoo has been erected in a vast park, featuring crude versions of the Arc de Triomphe, the White House, and the Great Wall. And in Shanghai, a Oxfordian hamlet named Thames Town welcomes tourists, fashion shoots, and newlyweds. Such parks can be found throughout China’s booming cities.
Now, a Chinese firm is planning to erect a version of Austrian mountain town of Hallstatt, the fantastical lakeside town that attracts 800,000 visitor annually, in the southern Chinese Guangdong province. As der Spiegel reports, the firm has been secretly planning an exact replica of the town based on photographs collected from visits to Hallstatt. The plans even specify the construction of a similarly atmospheric lake. Granted, the copying of entire picturesque towns isn’t all that new, examples including what is perhaps the most spectacular, Israel’s Hermon Mountain ski resort (!) modeled directly on a Swiss Alpine town.
Hallstatt, Austria, a scene that one may soon encounter in a development in China's Guangdong province, with snow intact, perhaps.
While a 1:1 copy may not be entirely legal, the building of structures based off of photographs is, says UNESCO. Even so, if the imitation town is built, regardless of the exactitude of its reproduction, it will surely attract scores of Chinese tourists. In a sense, the fabricated town isn't so much an aberration as evidence of where Chinese architecture is at present. China's current building boom has led to a profusion of all architectures, from the traditional to the experimental, all in a flux of change and transformation. The search for authentic Chinese culture, whether through art or architecture, is an illusory mandate perpetuated by expats and international tourists. I, for one, would like to see how more contemporary structures like China’s own ‘Bird’s Nest’ would fair constructed elsewhere in developing cities and towns.
[via der Spiegel]