England Upon the YangtzeThames Town, a major tourist attraction, shopping district, and luxury residential district in Shanghai, has been open for business since 2006. UK design firm Atkins was contracted to create the area, a full square kilometer with enough room to house 10,000 people. Total construction expenses were nearly 5 billion yuan ($157 million). While most of the building designs are original, some are lifted directly from England, including the church, which is a copy of the Christ Church in Clifton, Bristol. The area comes complete with its own statue of Winston Churchill and red telephone booth.
Churchill In ChinaThames Town, a major tourist attraction, shopping district, and luxury residential district in Shanghai, has been open for business since 2006. UK design firm Atkins was contracted to create the area, a full square kilometer with enough room to house 10,000 people. Total construction expenses were nearly 5 billion yuan ($157 million). While most of the building designs are original, some are lifted directly from England, including the church, which is a copy of the Christ Church in Clifton, Bristol. The area comes complete with its own statue of Winston Churchill and red telephone booth.
Modern Germany Outside New ShanghaiThe Urban Planning Commission of Shanghai has approved plans to separately build Italian, Spanish, Scandinavian, British, Dutch, German, and Canadian villages around the city. Anting Town, as the German village is named, was in fact designed in 2001 by a team led by Albert Speer Jr., the son of the architect who designed for the Third Reich and for a time served as its arms minister. Speer's Shanghai design includes room for 50,000 residents and is meant to highlight traditional architectural aesthetics applied to modern eco-friendly housing. However, Shanghai residents weren't interested in a development that didn't look like the real thing. The project has turned out to be a colossal failure as very few residents are moving into the district, making it something of a ghost town.
The Real DealThe Chateau de Maisons-Laffitte is a fine example of Baroque architecture, located in Yvelines, a suburb close to Paris. It was built between the 1630s and 1650s by the Longueil family and owned by them until the French Revolution. In 1914, the French government made it a historical monument.
The Upgrade?Beijing Chateau Laffitte Hotel was opened in 2004 as a resort and tourist destination outside the Chinese capital by real estate mogul Zhang Yuchen. It is estimated to have cost him some $50 million to complete. The Chinese Laffitte adds more gardens, a reflecting pool, and sculptures from the Royal Palace of Fontainebleau. The mansion's name, similar to Chateau Lafite Rothschild, a producer of high-end luxury French wine, is no doubt a major attraction for Chinese tourists as well. Demand from China for the luxury wine helped push up the price more than 800 percent over the last ten years and has created a massive market for fake Lafite wine. Check out the Beijing Laffitte Hotel website at: http://www.bjlaffitte-hotel.com/ztgh/index1.asp
Chateau ChangyuChateau Changyu AFIP Town, located in Miyun near Beijing, is actually modeled after a real winery near Versailles. Changyu, a major wine label in China, created the high-end restaurant and hotel resort in 2009. The location does indeed have its one vineyard and produce its own wine. Guests have the option of opening their own private wine cellar at the location. Changyu competitor Dynasty has its own 11,000 square meter location close to Tianjin, thought to be partially modeled after the Palace of Versailles.
The U.S. President Isn't The Only One With A White HouseChinese CEO Huang Qiaoling, the 299th richest man in the country according to Forbes, heads the Hangzhou Songcheng Tourism Development Co. Huang spent 80 million yuan on recreating the White House near Hangzhou ($12 million at current exchange rates) and is said to enjoy entertaining and conducting meetings in his own Oval Office.
Cand You Copyright A Village?The picturesque hamlet of Hallstatt is a UNESCO world heritage site situated in the Alpine climates of central Austria. The village is home to some 800 people.
Hallstatt Now Coming To ChinaMinmetals, a massive state-owned minerals and mining enterprise in China, recently opened a remake of the Austrian hamlet of Hallstatt in Huizhou, a town near the southern metropolis of Guangzhou. Minmetals has spent $930 million recreating it as a tourist destination in the subtropical heat of southern China. The Chinese Hallstatt opened to visitors in early June 2012.
Hallstatt in ChinaMinmetals, a massive state-owned minerals and mining enterprise in China recently opened a remake of the Austrian hamlet of Hallstatt in Huizhou, a town near the southern metropolis of Guangzhou. Minmetals has spent $930 million recreating it as a tourist destination in the subtropical climates of China. The Chinese Halstatt opened to visitors in early June 2012.
National Icon, ReduxTianducheng, a town near the city of Hangzhou, has an area completely dedicated to remaking the downtown splendor of the French capital, complete with Parisian townhouses, villas, and a resort modeled after royal palaces. The major attraction however may be the replica of the Eiffel Tower which, without the setting of the Champ de Mars, appears rather out of place.
The Chinese have fallen in love with Europe. So much, in fact, they are trying to remake parts of their county in its image.
It may be more accurate to say that what they have fallen in love with is a popularized image of Europe -- that of quaint, calm villages, stately manors, and aristocratic wealth. That attraction is not entirely irrational, especially when one thinks about the psychology of contemporary China's highly competitive new wealth. Most of the newly rich live in the country's massive, noisy cities, and have a deep compulsion to get away from it all, and a desire to try to be more cosmopolitan.
Some Chinese companies and individuals are not simply seeking Western architectural inspirations. In some cases they are actually copying outright already existing designs, and rebuilding them back at home.
Some of the following examples can be charming in their replication; residential districts and resorts cropping up near major cities are meant to make people feel like they are actually in England, Germany, or Holland. Others are astounding for their blatant and exacting duplication: an entire French winery copied and set up near Beijing, another Eiffel Tower, even a second White House complete with an oval office.
China does have a great deal of European architecture left over from the 19th and 20th century, when European empires established treaty ports and zones of control in the country. But these examples go further: they have no history, only a clone of it.
If there is a common thread within all these oddities, it is that they are targeted at, built by, and intended for a specific audience: those enamored with the idea of Western luxury, but perhaps still a few steps away from actually living within it.