Play Houses
April 5, 2010 9:31 PM   Subscribe

The World's Strangest Housing Communities. Brazilian dystopia, mysterious Midgetville, mock California in China, deserted Taiwan futureland and Indian utopia [also Paulville - 100% Ron Paul Supporters].
posted by meech (40 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Weird, I lived in Vienna and have never heard of 'midgetville'.
posted by empath at 9:46 PM on April 5, 2010

I lived in DC as a kid and heard stories about Wedderburn/Midgetville, but I always assumed it was an urban legend, which it kind of was, I guess?
posted by sallybrown at 10:04 PM on April 5, 2010

About that mock-California,

"It would be unfair to criticize them just for ignoring their own culture. After all American architecture is just a pastiche of other traditions, and plenty of replicas like the windmills in Japan, are charming enough."

Somehow I doubt that a bunch of soullessly identical stucco houses with curving red shingles will look remotely as charming as windmill replicas. Because windmills had charm and history in the first place.

And I love how it says "their own culture" as if a mass produced eyesores were rich and integral part of American culture. Or maybe they are, and I'm just a bitter Californian surrounded by architecture I hate.
posted by erstwhile ungulate at 10:06 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you were listening to NPR last night you may have heard about "The Villages":
This is the original downtown area and you see quite an interesting street here. The buildings look like they're all from the 1800s and so on, with their little historical plaques like the Cattlemen's Association and all that sort of thing. Here's one established 1872. Thats all just made-up history and fictitious...
posted by shii at 10:10 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

as if a mass produced eyesores were rich and integral part of American culture.

Bad culture is still culture.
posted by empath at 10:13 PM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

Thanks shii - that place sounds so creepy [according to an ex-resident - a place where the local paper (owned by the developer who owns everything) holds Anne Coulter up as an intellectual]. Also it doesn't help that they have simply pluralized The Village from The Prisoner.

Have just added Leisureland to my wishlist.
posted by meech at 11:09 PM on April 5, 2010

Hundreds of residents helicopter in and out over electric fences. Over a thousand security guards are employed. Residents watch “TV Alphaville,” a twenty -four hour monitor of people entering and exiting the premises.

These are all strawmen. Most people who live on Alphaville are more on the middle/upper manager type, who do the (brutal) commute on their "nice" cars (imported cars are heavily taxed in Brazil, so these are Hondas or Toyotas, but you can parallel it to what entry level Lexus/BMWs are in the US). The really flashy rich people probably live in luxury penthouses in the nicer downtown neighborhoods, not in a far away suburb. It's true that helicopters are fairly common in Sao Paulo, compared to the rest of the world, but there are about 500 personal helicopters in the entire metropolitan area, and Alphaville has about 50,000 inhabitants, you do the math.

The social make up is really no different than an upscale suburb in the US (think of a suburb with houses in the $0.5M-1M range), in fact, the model they tried to mirror was basically the American suburb, including local commerce (I don't know if the strip mall fad hit there yet), and a lot of office parks inside the community. Notably, Accenture has offices there, and I knew a few people who worked there and hated the reverse commute.

The gated community thing sounds somewhat iffy to Americans (although it's not unheard of around here), but it's not an uncommon arrangement in Brazil. The "Alphaville TV" thing I never heard of, but it's probably a local cable channel showing their security cameras, more of a condo gimmick than something people really waste time watching. A thousand security guards sounds high, but if you factor in that they have a daytime population of over 100,000 (due to the office parks), and that the local security also tends to act as the de-facto "police" patrol, 1/100 is a high but not outworldy "cops"/people rate considering the crime rates over there.
posted by qvantamon at 11:22 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

China is full of these little bizarro communities. Beijing, where I live, has got suburbs named "Napa Valley" and "Orange County," mentioned in the article (appropriately, the latter really is a gated community), real estate developments called "Cappucino" and (I could swear) "Philadelphia Style," and all the faux-Greco-Roman statuary and columns you could hope for. There's a fake Ye-Olde-English village outside of Shanghai that apparently takes the weirdness to a "The Prisoner" level. (Official website)
And then there's Ordos, which has the highest per-capita GDP of any city in China despite being in the middle of, basically, the Gobi desert, and is the host to the Ordos 100 project, in which 100 brand-name architects from all over the world are designing/have designed super-luxe villas for...well, for somebody, I guess, if anyone ever stops by that part of the world.
posted by bokane at 11:31 PM on April 5, 2010

qvantamon, that's not what a straw man is.
posted by empath at 11:33 PM on April 5, 2010

my bad, wrong idiom.
posted by qvantamon at 11:37 PM on April 5, 2010

Not that this is anything new in China, of course. There are plenty of European-style buildings in cities like Shanghai and Qingdao and Guangzhou, which isn't surprising given their colonial history. What is more surprising is the existence of European houses out in the middle of rural Jiangsu province on Moganshan, a mountain resort where missionaries and well-to-do gringos from Shanghai withdrew in the summer months. Eventually, well-to-do Chinese began to build houses there as well -- also in European styles. And then there were all the 19th-century Cantonese emigrants who sent money back to their families and eventually built communities of Western-looking homes -- some of them really quite nice -- in the middle of Guangdong province.
posted by bokane at 11:38 PM on April 5, 2010

If you were listening to NPR last night you may have heard about "The Villages":

The made up history stuff is interesting, but that article talks about The Villages as if an age-segregated gated community is some new and shocking thing. Just outside of Austin is Sun City in Georgetown, where you cannot live if you're under 55, just like this place. It's been there at least as long as I have, which is about 15 years.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:38 PM on April 5, 2010

Well, it may not be a straw man, but qvantamon nailed Alphaville's demographics and reality, this is from someone who lives in Sao Paulo and visits the office parks in Alphaville regularly and have many friends who live there.

The same type of initiative has been popping up in other brazilian cities as well...
posted by lnc at 11:39 PM on April 5, 2010

I can confirm that The Villages is as creepy as it sounds. It wasn't until I saw the FAKE GHOSTSIGNS that it really hit me.
I'm somewhat loath to speak of all that I saw there.

posted by Casimir at 11:42 PM on April 5, 2010

I think nothiing would be quite as hellish as living in a Thomas Kinkade subdivision

BTW - I think a friend my mine was involved with designing something for the Ordos project. Architecurally very interesting - but I agree that being located in the middle nowhere is weird.
posted by helmutdog at 11:44 PM on April 5, 2010

Midget town?

posted by ELF Radio at 11:45 PM on April 5, 2010

Someday, I'd like to open a trailer park on the outskirts of Ordos, just to see.
posted by Casimir at 11:59 PM on April 5, 2010

Midget town?


WARNING!!! The above link contains the phrase "hot torrent of midget dung" WARNING!!!
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:49 AM on April 6, 2010

Or, alternatively, depending on one's predilections and peccadilloes:

BONUS!!! The above link contains the phrase "hot torrent of midget dung" BONUS!!!
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:52 AM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Midgetville and Midget Town reminds me of this rumor I once heard of a huge military complex, almost like a whole city, underground in a mountain in a secret location in the United States populated entirely by midgets. I guess the walkways and tunnels are pretty small so there can only be midget military personnel. I'm not sure why the military would need a whole mountain of midgets.

I believe they're there so that in case of an all out nuclear war, they'll be able to re-populate the earth.
posted by Skygazer at 1:07 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I suppose the Chinese pastiche 'burbs are following in a long tradition that takes in the faux chateaux you get in Newport, RI and neoclassical Grand Tour inspired country houses you find in the UK (although they're probably not as nice).

I visited Auroville (self-link) back in 2003. It's every bit as peculiar as one would hope and a nice day trip if you happen to be in Pondicherry.
posted by rhymer at 1:17 AM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

"also Paulville - 100% Ron Paul Supporters"

From their site:

"The process is forming a co-op of people buying shares in the community and these people would be granted land use at a minimum of 1 acre per share, for as long as they homesteaded the land. The community would be privately held by the co-op to establish private property for the general community thus preserving the community is 100% freedom and liberty lovers."

So it's a libertarian commune with no individual property rights?
posted by Jacqueline at 1:40 AM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

Midgetville and Midget Town reminds me of this rumor I once heard of a huge military complex, almost like a whole city, underground in a mountain in a secret location in the United States populated entirely by midgets.

True story: Back in the summer of 2002, I went to a rave on a farm out in West Virginia. It wasn't really a well organized thing, it was really just 1000 people out on a mountain top under the stars and a bunch of local DJs.

Anyway, my friends and I were candy-flipping, and some time after around 4am, one of my friends is like: "Hey, has anybody seen Alex?" And sure enough, nobody had. Of course, we were all peaking on LSD at the time, so we kind of started freaking out, even though he could have been like making out with a girl in a tent or something, so we start like looking for him.

"ALEX! ALEX!" I had gone off into the woods looking for him, and wasn't finding him, and then after a while, I realized, I don't see any of my friends, and I can't tell which direction the party is anymore. And that I'm out in the woods by myself on LSD.

So, instead of the smart thing, which would have been to just sit in place and wait for the sun to come up or the drugs to wear off, I just start running wildly through the woods. I'm like tripping over rocks and getting briars stuck on my pants legs, and i'm like yelling out all my friends names.

And then suddenly, I hit a clearing. Well, not so much a clearing as a hole in the fucking ground, which I fell through. I don't know how far, maybe 4, 5 feet. The damnedest thing is that it wasn't a cave. When I hit the bottom, it gonged, like metal. I stood up, and my head easily cleared the forest floor. I had a few glow sticks in my pocket so I got them out and use them to see what the hell I fell into. It's some kind of passageway, that went off in both directions, perpendicular to the way I had been walking.

I think I can hear things. Of course, I was hearing voices the whole time I was running through the woods, on account of the LSD, but these were like more real. At first I thought it was maybe rats, but no, the sounds were people sounds. And machinery.

Was this a crashed space ship? Was Alex kidnapped by aliens? I didn't know, but I was going to find out.

I ducked down and walked through the tunnel.

It wasn't long before I found some signage on the wall, holding the glowsticks up to it, I tried to read it, but my vision wouldn't co-operate. The signs jittered back and forth, and I couldn't make heads or tails of the meaning. Except, no wait. Was that an American Flag? It was. Wait, those letters -- C I A. At least I knew it wasn't an alien space craft.

The voices were clearer now, and this time, they were obviously not in my head. Though, they were strangely high pitched.

"Did you hear that?" a voice said. "It sounds like an overworlder."

Did he just say overworlder? I thought.

"Probably another possum in the maintenance tunnels. They never fixed the last collapse. I'll go check it out."

I stopped dead still, panicked. What'll they do with me if they find me? And what have they done with Alex?

I started crawling slowly forward, making as little sound as possible, until I saw a grate on the floor of the tunnel, with light shining through it from below. I lay down on my belly and started sliding myself up so I can see what was down there.

It was an entire goddamned airplane hanger full of midgets. And not even 'normal' midgets. They were like 20% shorter than the usual midgets you see on tv, like they were genetically engineered to be smaller, or maybe they were some kind of alien/midget hybrid.

It was full of something that I didn't recognize at the time -- it almost looked like a huge RC plane, but it was just big enough for a midget to fit into the pilot seat. I could see a midget getting into the pilot seat of one of them, and start taxi-ing away.

Then I felt a tiny hand grab my ankle.


The next thing I know I wake up in my tent, and the hot sun is beating down on me. The rave is over and my friends are packing up. Alex is there, acting like nothing happened. I asked him where he went off to, and he said -- 'What, i was here the whole time?'

Anyway, it wasn't until a few months later that I saw a picture of a Predator drone, and I knew the terrible secret that the CIA doesn't want you to know.
posted by empath at 2:13 AM on April 6, 2010 [21 favorites]

You don't know me.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:44 AM on April 6, 2010

So it's a libertarian commune with no individual property rights? are you, as the developer, supposed to make money without a HOA?

Cuz that HOA will keep out the people who don't love freedom!
(And after loving freedom, you should spend some snuggle time or at least share coffee at the bistro)
posted by rough ashlar at 3:38 AM on April 6, 2010

The next thing I know I wake up in my tent, and the hot sun is beating down on me.

In a tent, yet the sun is beating down on you.

I no longer find your story credible, good day to you!
posted by rough ashlar at 3:43 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Surprised they didn't mention Kandovan in Iran.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:26 AM on April 6, 2010

In a tent, yet the sun is beating down on you.

Spoken like someone whose never been to Bonnaroo, or ever camped in any summertime field. Trust me, the sun can still beat down on you inside a tent. Usually starting about 7 in the am. Ugh.
posted by absalom at 7:13 AM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Here's another one in China:
Jackson Hole
You can't tell from the photo, but having seen the logo close-up at the sales office in Beijing, I can say it's a cowboy on a bucking bronco. Here are some interior pictures.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:16 AM on April 6, 2010

Trust me, the sun can still beat down on you inside a tent.

Nah, he got me, i made up the tent.
posted by empath at 7:23 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought the Brazilian dystopia was going to be Jardim Gramacho.
posted by clavicle at 7:30 AM on April 6, 2010

What, no Helen, Georgia?
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:02 AM on April 6, 2010

From the article, on Auroraville: If this is sounding like Jonestown or the Heaven’s Gate community, it might surprise you to learn religion too is banned.

Cults don't have to be [overtly] religious in nature.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:20 AM on April 6, 2010
Like minded people, coming together!

So, basically it's a Nazi sex cult?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:58 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also from
These communities are not for the faint at heard they will start as undeveloped land in non city locals, as this is the way to secure large tracts of land needed for these efforts.
Moving Paul supporters out to the middle of nowhere, to a place presumably run by the guy who wrote the above. And this is supposed to be the dream of Paul supporters?
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:22 AM on April 6, 2010

Narrator: Gob was recently hired by the Bluth Company's rival, Sitwell Enterprises. And although he started off well...
Gob: 52% of the country is single. That's a market that's been dominated by apartment rentals. Let's take some of that market. I call it "Single City."
Narrator: ...his ideas failed to evolve.
Gob: It's, like, "Hey, you want to go down to the whirlpool?" "Yeah, I don't have a husband." I call it "Swing City."
Stan Sitwell: Let's get into some new areas, if you don't mind.
Narrator: But Gob continued to fine-tune his first one.
Gob: How do we filter out the teases? We don't let them in.
Gob: This goes for the guys, too. Because sometimes the guys are tapped out. But check your lease, man. Because you're living in "Fuck City."
Stan Sitwell: You're fired.
posted by Poolio at 10:33 AM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

i wonder what the streets and schools would be like in paulville.
posted by djduckie at 8:40 PM on April 6, 2010

Paved and built with gold, obviously.
posted by sallybrown at 9:56 PM on April 6, 2010

Those pods in Sanzhi were torn down a while ago. Luckily, we got to shoot part of our movie there before it happened.
posted by Poagao at 1:53 AM on April 7, 2010

« Older WV Mine Explosion   |   Eros Kapital Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments