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Original Copies

Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China

With a Foreword by Jerome Silbergeld
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    Original Copies
    Book Description:

    A 108-meter high Eiffel Tower rises above Champs Elysées Square in Hangzhou. A Chengdu residential complex for 200,000 recreates Dorchester, England. An ersatz Queen's Guard patrols Shanghai's Thames Town, where pubs and statues of Winston Churchill abound. Gleaming replicas of the White House dot Chinese cities from Fuyang to Shenzhen. These examples are but a sampling of China's most popular and startling architectural movement: the construction of monumental themed communities that replicate towns and cities in the West.Original Copiespresents the first definitive chronicle of this remarkable phenomenon in which entire townships appear to have been airlifted from their historic and geographic foundations in Europe and the Americas, and spot-welded to Chinese cities. These copycat constructions are not theme parks but thriving communities where Chinese families raise children, cook dinners, and simulate the experiences of a pseudo-Orange County or Oxford.In recounting the untold and evolving story of China's predilection for replicating the greatest architectural hits of the West, Bianca Bosker explores what this unprecedented experiment in "duplitecture" implies for the social, political, architectural, and commercial landscape of contemporary China. With her lively, authoritative narrative, the author shows us how, in subtle but important ways, these homes and public spaces shape the behavior of their residents, as they reflect the achievements, dreams, and anxieties of those who inhabit them, as well as those of their developers and designers.From Chinese philosophical perspectives on copying to twenty-first century market forces, Bosker details the factors giving rise to China's new breed of building. Her analysis draws on insights from the world's leading architects, critics and city planners, and on interviews with the residents of these developments. 69 illus., 54 in color

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3783-9
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    Jerome Silbergeld

    Whatever one may have read about or expects to see in a visit to today’s Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi’an, Chongqing, Chengdu, or half a dozen other Chinese metropolitan centers, the traveler there is likely to be dazzled by the pace of urban development, by the lightning-like speed of Westernization, by China’s sudden surpassing of the cities of Europe and North America at their own “game.” The New York or London or Tokyo that the traveler returns to can only seem like a dated and relatively downtrodden city. This phenomenon raises all sorts of questions about the new and the old...

    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 INTO “THE LAND OF COURTLY ENJOYMENTS”: An Introduction to China’s Architectural Mimicry
    (pp. 1-19)

    Within an astonishingly compressed term of two decades, China has catapulted its architectural universe years into a future in which the laws of physics no longer seem to hold: skyscrapers fold in half, buildings hover over water, and steel twists like silly putty. Architects have been breaking world records constructing mega-metropolises with the “greenest,” biggest, fastest-built, tallest, and most daring structures on the planet. But while the centers of Chinese cities now flaunt cutting-edge style, engineering, and technology, the suburbs and satellite townships are giving way to an entirely different breed of architecture: not innovative but imitative and backward-looking. Chengdu,...

  6. 2 THE FASCINATION WITH FAUX: Philosophical and Theoretical Drivers of Architectural Reproduction in China
    (pp. 20-36)

    The “authentic” and the “fake” are categories that face off against each other in philosophically and culturally complex ways. Their definitions and distinctions vacillate, depending on the vantage point from which they are considered: idealist or empirical, psychological or anthropological, esthetic or ethical. Some societies lay great stock by these distinctions; the same societies, at different periods of their development, may be blind to their differences or find them irrelevant in various ways. As critic Lionel Trilling suggests in his cultural history of “authenticity,” the concept acquires an ontological status or comes to be equated with “the real” and “the...

  7. 3 MANIFESTATIONS OF WESTERNIZATION: The Anatomy of China’s Simulacrascapes
    (pp. 37-66)

    The above inscription was written on a banner hung outside the sales office of Dreams Come True Realty in Thames Town. Inside, a real estate agent, Song Yucai, used a laser pointer and a small model of the British-themed housing development to take prospective buyers on a virtual tour of the town. She recited a rehearsed sales pitch.

    “Your house is your castle,” Song said, quoting a line from the Thames Town brochure. “Have you ever been to England?” she asked. “Here, we have a church, good air, and the Thames River. It’s just like in England.”² Song, a native...

  8. 4 SIMULACRA AND THE SINO-PSYCHE: Understanding the Chinese Motivation for Replicating the Alien
    (pp. 67-92)

    At no time during the roughly three millennia of its history has China had as many stylistic options for its residential architecture as in the thirty years since the shift from a command economy toward the open market. Yet in the remarkable building boom that has deposited broad swaths of suburbs around Chongqing, Chengdu, Changsha, and other cities, among all the directions Chinese builders could take—from indigenous antiquarian to cutting-edge futuristic—one of the leading stylistic imperatives has been Western historicism.

    The transformation of China into the factory of the world and the ideological shift to the policy of...

  9. 5 RESIDENTIAL REVOLUTION: Inside the Twenty-first Century Chinese Dream
    (pp. 93-117)

    In the over three decades since the beginning of China’s “Opening and Reform,” the Chinese government has instituted a series of policy changes that set into motion a residential revolution that is shaping the face of the “New China.” The scope of centralized planning has been judiciously reduced. Barriers to foreign investment have been lowered and in some instances dismantled. Legislation has been passed that encourages the formation and autonomy of private enterprise. A tremendous effort has gone into expanding the infrastructure and the technology that undergird urban and suburban development. And, not least, laws governing the purchase, sale, and...

  10. CONCLUSION: From Imitation to Innovation?
    (pp. 118-132)

    From the perspective of the future, will the simulacra communities of the last two decades prove to be just another expensive, expansive instance of “learning how the Handan residents walk”? Or will they take root and become part of China’s residential landscape? If these simulacra are to endure as anything but a passing fad in China’s dynamic evolution, they must strike the proper balance between indigenous cultural attitudes and novel accommodations to the changing position of China in the global arena.

    At various moments in its past, as conditions dictated, China has productively copied and internalized the alien, though never...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 133-146)
    (pp. 147-154)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 155-162)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 163-165)