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“It is very good here, I can drink here everyday and nobody bothers me.”
August 29, 2013 1:54 AM   Subscribe

For Anting New City, China asked for an idealized theme park of a Teutonic village, but instead they got a modern Bauhaus inspired ghost town. Only about 1,000 people live in this Shanghai mega-suburb that was built to be home to 50,000 residents. (via)
posted by spamandkimchi (45 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
"I can drink here everyday and nobody bothers me.”

Replace that statue with one of Charles Bukowski.
posted by colie at 2:12 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


That was a really nice piece, thanks.
posted by smoke at 2:32 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


It would be an incredible set for a movie, I think. How interesting - thank you!
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:35 AM on August 29, 2013


There are apparently scores of such "ghost cities" across China.

China's Gleaming Ghost Cities Draw Neither Jobs Nor People

"In theory, urbanization stimulates growth because city dwellers typically earn more than their rural counterparts, allowing them to spend more on consumer goods and services.

For the government to realize that payoff, though, it must create jobs that will draw people into the cities. Tieling underscores the difficulty.

... Clean waterways weave among deserted residential and government buildings. Housing blocks that won recognition from the United Nations for providing good affordable homes are almost empty. The businesses that were supposed to create local employment haven't materialized. Without jobs, there is little incentive for anybody to move here."

When the richest woman in China is the 30 year old daughter of a property developer one gets the impression that property developers have done very well building places like this despite the fact that they are standing mostly empty. Funny how that works.
posted by three blind mice at 2:45 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Funny how that works.

Cynic. This is the free market at work!

I think I would me happy living there.
posted by Mezentian at 3:11 AM on August 29, 2013


"I can drink here everyday and nobody bothers me."

Replace that statue with one of Charles Bukowski.
I think that Goethe and Schiller have got this in hand.

What throws me is that two of the photos are pretty much carbon copies of places I pass through/by nearly every day: Schillerstraße and the statue of Goethe and Schiller outside the Deutsche Nationaltheater.

In further, though less uncanny valley, parallelism, the title quote could have equally been said about drinking next to or on the base of the Goethe/Schiller statue here.
posted by frimble at 3:35 AM on August 29, 2013


See what Paris looks like as a dark, empty, chinese city (via codesign but online in other places)
posted by whatzit at 3:42 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


But do they have proper East German Ampelmännchen on the traffic lights?
posted by acb at 3:42 AM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Interesting take on the topic. We too frequently hear about ghost towns in China without hearing the context of why that's happened. Sounds like a combination of corruption, real estate investment and the government planning for suburban sprawl on a Chinese scale. That last one is the most interesting to me. It's kind of like all the new apartment buildings here in the US that stand empty; it's just that in China, they're planning for hundreds of thousands of people, not just a few hundred.
posted by jiawen at 3:50 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


It'll be very interesting to see how this plays out. The MSM in the USA seems to ba all "point and laugh, ha ha! Those whacky Chinese." but the people interviewed in the article seem to have the exact opposite beliefs. Seems like the propaganda machine of one of the two countries has to be wrong. Maybe it'll land somewhere in between, though. It'll be interesting to watch whatever happens.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 4:04 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


A very interesting article. I cannot believe I haven't heard of these suburbs before, the Scandinavian one in particular. A near-replica of Sigtuna! Amazing!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:17 AM on August 29, 2013


I think I see, right here in the article, why no one has moved out there -
I rode subway line 11 out to its present terminus in Anting’s older district. The stop that I got off at just opened a few months before, and the next stop down the line was still being built.
Mass transit. If you build it they will come.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:26 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mass transit. If you build it they will come.

They hope.
posted by Mezentian at 4:45 AM on August 29, 2013


I am curious about the Canadian town, because while i can think of a clear national identity for everyone of the mentioned countries, being canadian, i cannot imagine what a canadian theme town would look like.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:02 AM on August 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Per the CBC article, anyway, the Canadian town seems to have been planned but cancelled.
posted by frimble at 5:10 AM on August 29, 2013


The Thames Town is adorable! I would live there in a flash, not least because it looks just like some corners of Cambridge.

But yeah, I'm googling to see what the "Canadian town" looks like - my money is on a fake Jasper thing. So many tourists seem to think BC=Canada. (When everyone should know that it's PEI which is the one province that should represent our country - sea, trees, farms, redheads).
posted by jb at 5:13 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


But I just remembered that the Hannover zoo has a Canada-themed area, with a Canadian village.
posted by frimble at 5:14 AM on August 29, 2013


frimble: aw, shucks.
posted by jb at 5:16 AM on August 29, 2013


I need to preview: the shucks was in response to the cancelled Shanghai suburb (though probably a good idea to cancel, what with them being empty), and not a response to the zoo.
posted by jb at 5:17 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would imagine the Canadian town would have pretty much the mixture of log cabins and igloos that you people actually live in. Maybe some green gables or something.
posted by Segundus at 5:20 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are those penguins hanging around "Yukon Bay"?

A thought about the actual Shanghai suburbs: are they empty because they are all much too expensive for most people there? If everyone builds for the small elite class, especially in a country with a lot of inequality, you can end up with empty developments even as average people are desperate for housing. It's happening on a much smaller scale in Toronto right now: rental vacancies are really low and rents are going up, even as expensive new condominium buildings sit 1/2 empty.
posted by jb at 5:23 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the most interesting things about this project IMO:
The district was designed in 2001 by the Frankfurt-based architecture firm Albert Speer & Partner. Speer is the son of the eponymous architect who was Hitler's chief architect and minister of armaments and war production during World War II.
I'm glad that they made that clarification.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:29 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suspect that the Canadian one would be Jasper/Banff, but the architechture of Jasper and Banff was designed to look like the Swiss/German alpine retreats, and so it becomes a kind of recurisive looking back.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:36 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


firmly keeping the outside world firmly at bay

Fire the editor.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:45 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


The district was designed in 2001 by the Frankfurt-based architecture firm Albert Speer & Partner. Speer is the son of the eponymous architect who was Hitler's chief architect and minister of armaments and war production during World War II.

I climbed over a vacant expanse and onto a collapsed bridge over an artificial pond that apparently nobody found any reason to repair.

Has he continued his father's practice of designing for Ruinenwert? It looks like the residents of Anting New City will be finding out soon enough.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:53 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Speer told Deutsche Welle, an international news site based in Germany, that in China, no one ever asks him about his father.

I don't know why this has struck me as being unbearably hilarious but here I am, cackling like a maniac.
posted by elizardbits at 6:45 AM on August 29, 2013


Also this Italian-designed one looks like a crueler-than-usual federal prison.
posted by elizardbits at 6:47 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


three blind mice: "When the richest woman in China is the 30 year old daughter of a property developer one gets the impression that property developers have done very well building places like this despite the fact that they are standing mostly empty. Funny how that works."

I'm not sure I buy the implication that all new development in China has failed spectacularly. It's a country of 1.3 billion people, and undergoing some pretty rapid growth. When talking about something on that kind of scale, it's not completely surprising that there are going to be some odd failures and edge cases along the way.

On the other hand, bizarre urban planning failures do seem like a foregone conclusion of China's odd communist/capitalist hybrid. I don't think that China has quite figured out how to orchestrate planned urban development in a free(ish) economy. They can build the cities, but they can't tell anybody to move there.

Still, you'd think that they'd have planned better transportation links before they built these new towns.
posted by schmod at 6:59 AM on August 29, 2013


Dateline 1883: Moron new yorkers spend millions to build a bridge to nowheresville Brooklyn. "A transit system for chickens and jews lol" reads the headline in Ottoman Empire Daily.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:13 AM on August 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


First thing that came to my mind after a few paragraphs: Hey look, it's Google Plus.

But seriously - it seems like you're trying to force them into places they are not culturally familiar with stylistically, and then expecting them all to move en masse. It's like social networks - it's hard to get momentum to get people over to your social network, first you need the original network you're one to start dying out or looking bad. Clearly, the benefits of the city center with all the crap that goes with it, still must have enough benefits that the 'burbs, such as they are, are not yet attractive enough.

I wonder, though, with all the problems that suburbanization brings in general, if this is such a bad thing, really.
posted by symbioid at 7:17 AM on August 29, 2013


Dateline 1883: Moron new yorkers spend millions to build a bridge to nowheresville Brooklyn.

Brooklyn was the third largest city in the U.S. in 1880.
posted by kmz at 8:17 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Brooklyn was the third largest city in the U.S. in 1880.

And one of the reasons they built the bridge was because so many people were sick of taking a ferry back and forth.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:23 AM on August 29, 2013


Well, that Brooklyn joke/attempt at comparison fell flat.


I have not visited Germany since I was a child, but found a lot of the architecture featured here rather abhorrent. The article really didn't touch upon the aesthetic aspect of the town other than to say, "It's a modern German versus touristy Thames-town-like place!" What do the natives feel about it, besides it being not crowded?
posted by Atreides at 8:37 AM on August 29, 2013


That's not so different than us.

Growing up in suburban Wash DC I have a pretty good idea of this soulless sprawl. 1000 acre farms bulldozed and covered with homes. Each new development is just another contrived "utopian" vision of high profit, high density living. But the people come. In 10 yrs this will be just another middle class hell, the ghosts chased out.

Cool web site, btw. I'll have to poke around some more.
posted by karst at 8:58 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I actually went to the nine towns area by mistake in 2007.

It is not a terribly interesting story: I had a couple of days to kill in Shanghai, and since my guidebook described the area as a "quaint old town" I decided to go there. On the bus I sat next to a guy who were going there on a meeting, and he explained that "oh, that used to be an old town, now it is all modern European city". Apparently my 2004 guidebook was way out of date. I ended up paying 10rmb for one hour bicycle rickshaw trip around "town" which was probably even more empty than what the article describes - huge shopping malls and wide streets, but almost no cars, and very little of the "hustle and bustle" most people associate with city life. Surreal, but also incredibly boring.

From what I've read areas like this are constructed more investment instruments than buildings where people are supposed to live. As long as the economy grows by 10% every year the properties will actually give some return on investment when they're flipped, but until then they're better left "unopened". Besides, rental income would be so low that it is not worth renting it out.
posted by Baron Humbert von Gikkingen at 9:56 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would live there. I wonder what the rent is.
posted by bongo_x at 11:38 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Empty towns usually have graffiti and broken windows. This one unnaturally clean.
posted by stbalbach at 1:11 PM on August 29, 2013


Wow, I love this.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:49 PM on August 29, 2013


I know, my first thought was "could I live in a beautiful German city devoid of ugly, annoying humanity at a discount?!?!?!" but there's probably a lot of reasons I couldn't.
posted by Mooseli at 3:25 PM on August 29, 2013


Contra Atreides I think this town looks really nice. It's definitely a lot less gimicky than the Parisian suburb or the Scandinavian suburb - it looks like somewhere people would actually live.
posted by subdee at 7:34 PM on August 29, 2013


I grant personal tastes, but I'm not a fan of the other suburbs, either. What I think is extremely interesting is the wait for the Chinese to really discover what their aesthetic will be in the 21st Century. A lot of the major architectural developments have generally involved foreign architects and imitations of things found in the West. China has an incredibly rich history it can mine and to serve as a foundation for reinterpretation or original invention. When it starts to build upon this vision, then I think the nation will have come into its own.
posted by Atreides at 7:09 AM on August 30, 2013


A lot of the major architectural developments have generally involved foreign architects and imitations of things found in the West. China has an incredibly rich history it can mine and to serve as a foundation for reinterpretation or original invention. When it starts to build upon this vision, then I think the nation will have come into its own.

Yes, although I'd warn against exempting other countries, such as the US, from this phenomena.

Thomas Jefferson founds UVA, and designs the architecture as well, which is heavily influenced by Palladio. His Virginia State Capitol is pretty heavily modeled after the Maison Carree, an ancient Roman temple. The White House, the seat of power for the President of the United States, is designed on a style largely imitating things found in Ancient Europe. Town halls, suburban homes, etc. have all been influenced by neoclassical architecture, which is, of course after all, a European imitation of Ancient Greek/Roman architecture.

So copying other architectural styles is either not new, or not as silly as it may appear.
posted by suedehead at 3:05 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


True, but there was a cultural and historic connection in your examples. Is the architecture being built in China representative of their view of the Foreign in the present and also of themselves?
posted by Atreides at 5:18 PM on August 30, 2013


China has an incredibly rich history it can mine and to serve as a foundation for reinterpretation or original invention.

I doubt the nanobots will take that into account.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:21 PM on August 30, 2013


True, but there was a cultural and historic connection in your examples. Is the architecture being built in China representative of their view of the Foreign in the present and also of themselves?

We should really compare American suburbs to these Chinese "suburbs", then -- every single building like this that has, say, Corinthian columns and a pediment is directly riffing off Greco-Roman architecture. This courthouse has rustications next to the columns (the striated brick), which became popularized during the Italian Renaissance by Bramante, among others, and eventually evolved to become this kind of stylized surburban decoration element in the US. And that dome -- that dome is directly cribbed/influenced from domes like St. Peter's Basilica, etc.

So, "is the architecture that is being built in the [US] representative of their view of the Foreign in the present and also of themselves?" Or is it kind of a "default" of "nice architecture" that we have now learned to accept?
posted by suedehead at 7:22 PM on August 30, 2013


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