Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China

Original CopiesA 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 Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China, by Bianca Bosker, presents 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, Bosker explores what this unprecedented experiment in “duplitecture” implies for the social, political, architectural, and commercial landscape of contemporary China.

“The postmodern predilection for ‘themed’ environments and simulacra has generally been interpreted, in a line that stretches from the Frankfurt School to Baudrillard and Eco, in terms of loss—loss of originality and loss of authenticity. Bianca Bosker turns this line of cultural criticism in a very different direction in a perceptive analysis of architectural mimicry in the cultural context of the ‘new China.’ Through significant and original research, including personal interviews and photographs, Bosker draws a vivid picture of a rapidly changing society in a moment in the self-definition of its wealthier elements. Original Copies will appeal both to specialists in contemporary Chinese studies and to a wider public curious about these arresting images of a consumer society in formation.” —Christian Hubert, Parsons The New School for Design

January 2013 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3606-1 / $30.00 (PAPER)
Spatial Habitus: Making and Meaning in Asia’s Architecture
Published in association with Hong Kong University Press

For more on China’s architectural mimicry:
Copycat Architects in China Take Aim at the Stars: http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/pirated-copy-of-design-by-star-architect-hadid-being-built-in-china-a-874390.html
China’s Copycat Cities: http://uhpress.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/foreign-policy-article-on-chinas-copycat-cities/