A short series of reports on The Power of Asia, an addendum to which might be the recent story about the Xeroxed Austrian Village, ‘Chinese Secretly Copy Austrian UNESCO Town‘. The cloning of Hallstatt was a recent early silly season story, splicing cultural indignation with old world snobbery. In truth, people have been trying to photocopy the ‘essential qualities’ of Hallstatt for centuries, just as they have with any idealised piece of architecture. Design archetypes and vernacular forms exist to be imitated and perpetuated, and who is to say the transition from Austrian lakeside to China is any less authentic than any number of developments in the West. On top of all this, faux Hallstatt hasn’t even been built yet – it’s just a plan awaiting investment and the greenlight.
Despite the absence of architectural thievery to illustrate, the Spiegel piece – and the many links to it – instead referenced the country’s existing imported instant urban environments, including Thames Town (linked in ‘Imaginary places in which to live‘, a while back), Nordic Town, an Italian town, the German Town Anting (part of Anting Auto City) and Chengdu British Town. Imagery and information about this clutch of faux citadels is relatively hard to come by – most of the cites are links to stories about ersatz cities – but there are some more details in this Independent story from 2005, as well as a 360 of Thames Town. These developments are mostly pitched at the emerging middle classes, all part of Shanghai’s One City, Nine Towns project (snarkily referred to as One City, Nine Ghost Towns at The Pop-Up City). As noted in this Shanghai Squared post, the inspiration is just as much Ebenezer Howard as Walt Disney.
The strangely contrived economic parallels within the ‘Nine Towns’ project – the Swedish-influenced Luodian is home to the local Volvo HQ, while VW China is in the German Town Anting – make the initiative feel like a mash-up of benevolent C19 social engineering and branded quasi-private spaces. What they hadn’t reckoned on was that no-one would be terribly interested in stepping straight into a space with pre-determined cultural heritage. From Triple Five Shanghai: ‘Just like its peers dotted around Shanghai [Pujiang’s Italy Town] is an astronomical flop. Gregotti must have been so excited, the prospect of designing an entire town in China the way Italy would do it. How perturbed they must have been when the local hands started inputting their local craftsmanship. If only they knew at the time that nobody would move in apart from a few hopefuls, a couple of knock-off Italian furniture stores and a ginormously optimistic gym.’
Other things. What do sites like Shred of the Month and Will it Blend? actually mean? A form of capitalist self-hatred (the wanton destruction of all that is held sacred)? / Bigend-Draperism, a memoir, and a desk, on ‘the cult of the minimalist glocal’ / Dan W’s Scrapbook, a tumblr / turn a hard drive into a toy / Mighty Thylacine!, a weblog about ‘the less appreciated parts of the built environment’ / our recent mention of Richter’s anchor blocks neglected to cite BLDG BLOG’s way more comprehensive post on the subject from a year or so ago. In his role as Visiting Scholar to the Canadian Centre for Architecture, BB’s has written several intriguing posts / also from the archives, the Architectural Construction Toys Archive / Block City / Super City (more).
Why is U2 so popular? / Anti-theft lunch bag, linked at dsgnWrld / adventures in suburban California, a tumblr / paired with adventures in suburban London / The New Aesthetic, a tumblr / from an earlier link, An Architectural Tour of Monrovia / Eastern European Photography and its Influence / The Lost Collection, ‘an exhibition of unclaimed art from Transport for London’s Lost Property Office‘. It should really say unclaimed objects, although perhaps some of these things have become art through their integretation into a collection and subsequent display.