China’s obsession with all things west has led architects remodel their exotic Eastern towns with a Western tinge. Marcel Proust’s Paris, French cafes on boulevards and the unbeatable European wine are now the hotspots in the fastest growing economy.
In recent times, China has been manufacturing raw, assembly-like line cities inspired from the best of Western architecture and plans are afoot for many more. The Asian superpower’s obsession with all things west has led architects remodel their exotic Eastern towns with a Western tinge. Marcel Proust’s Paris, French cafes on boulevards and the unbeatable European wine are now the hot-spots in the fastest growing economy.
The most striking example is Parisian Macao, the resort developed by Sands China at Macau, this month. A 2.7 billion dollar holiday town in the Parisian style, it nestles the signature Eiffel Tower that stands tall at entrance, illuminating the skyline with a 360-degree viewing platform, and a pan-Asian restaurant ‘le Chine’. The resort stole the limelight from ‘The Venetian’, its sister property, what with its luxurious suits and spas.
According to Charles Lee, the design director at Gensler who worked on this project, the team selected the theme of Paris because of China’s love affair with the globally renowned gastronomic capital. The chairman, Adelson, wanted the architects to be as authentic as possible so Lee dug deep, and set the cityscape in the 19th century.
But the awe doesn’t end here. Walk into Hangzhou, Zheijiang and you can take pictures next to Arc de Triomphe and French-styled apartments, which the Chinese built in 2007. Shanghai’s government-led project, ‘One City, Nine Towns’, has 10 satellite cities also modeled on varied European architecture; like that of London or Holland.
Bianca Bosker, the author of Architectural Mimicry in contemporary China, looks at this ‘duplitecture’ as a powerful fashion statement, in a country where there was once lack of any choice. Such trends, she believes, may want to make people enjoy lavish holidays at home itself.
However, there is also a segment that feels such replicas are gilded and will soon fall out of fashion as they are pastiche. James Roy, the Associate Principal at China Market Research Group, analyses that the Chinese may get disillusioned as many have visited the ‘real’ Europe. The masses are also yearning to see their heritage, as the existing buildings aren’t ‘Chinese’ enough.
Yet, the duo feel that the Chinese way of life is slowly becoming popular. Bianca is positive and says that as China grows in economy and innovation, it may also be regarded as the culture capital and people may begin to treat the Chinese way of life as a norm. She goes a step further to add that Western cities may lose their appeal and a pretty soon, a Europe or an America may model their cities from Macau.