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‘British Style’ Villa in China

China is known as the world’s hub for production of fake goods. Counterfeiting everything from electronics to clothing and more sinisterly, drywall and milk powder, is an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed. Fortunately the Chinese government is becoming more active in cracking down on individuals involved in intellectual property theft and the production of harmful goods.

Counterfeiting also happens at the urban scale in China. Recently developers from Guangdong Province have taken to planning an exact replica of the Austrian Alpine village of Hallstatt.

Unlike producing fake consumer goods,  the legality of appropriating architectural styles from overseas is not clearly defined. In the case of Hallstatt there may be some legal grounds against the Chinese developers due to the village’s status as a UNESCO Heritage site. View full post »

  • Howard Mark - The question of why can be answered in this manner. The country has been sequestered for most of its history with the exception of the European and American influence in the 20’s and 30’s and this was not by choice. The addiction to opium brought in by the British from Afghanistan as payment for tea when the British silver reserves were becoming scarce was the west abusing the generosity of the Chinese to export their tea.

    Fast forward through the birth of the Republic of China, the cultural revolution and the realization that many hands can make many things cheaper and faster than a few hands and a few things. Sort of like GWs
    take on the American economy. Yah makes things and yah sells em.
    Now you have a fist full of money, and you want to spend it a house or a car. The cultural history was T-boned by the cultural revolution and the new middle class through the internet and more travel abroad have seen the sights and sounds of the West, and they want it. What is there to want about the houses of the communist and pre-communist era. Housing for the collective? Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. One day maybe and hopefully sooner than later the new Chinese designers will break down the walls that limit their imaginations and the new Asia will soar with kites in the winds change in the Chinese design world.ReplyCancel

    • Adam Nathaniel Mayer - Yes that makes sense…when it comes to the appreciation (or lack thereof) of vernacular architecture, China has not recovered from the damage brought on by the Cultural Revolution. China is still in the phase where anything new is better, but it will be interesting to see what happens in the future as prosperity leads curious designers to begin excavating the past for inspiration. I have already seen some things coming from Chinese architects rediscovering the language of traditional architecture and reinterpreting those lessons into modern design, so that is encouraging.ReplyCancel

As more economists jump on the China bubble bandwagon, reliable information about the country’s state of development is becoming more difficult to come by. Anecdotes about empty buildings, empty trains, and just all around emptiness abound from China bears. I have no idea where these observations come from given the overwhelming falsity of some of these claims.

Neither does Shaun Rein over at Forbes. In a piece titled “Nouriel Roubini Is All Wrong About China“, Rein takes the famed economist to task by picking apart Roubini’s observations about ’empty trains’ and ’empty roads’ between Shanghai and Hangzhou. View full post »

UNESCO Heritage Site, Longmen Grottoes Stone Carvings near Luoyang, Henan Province.  Photo by Easytourchina.

In April I had the honor of being invited to sit on a panel at a conference sponsored by Forbes China in Luoyang. The discussions that took place during the event centered around the next 10 years of development in central China. With Luoyang being the host, much of the discussion pertained to the city itself.

Luoyang, a city of about 6 million people, sits in China’s central plains in the northwestern part of Henan Province, 100 kilometers west of the provincial capital Zhengzhou. New buildings dot the skyline, but not at the high density one sees in 1st or 2nd tier Chinese cities. Automobile and pedestrian traffic is light as well. Wide, tree-lined streets with bike lanes and generous sidewalks lend the city a pleasant atmosphere.

What is not immediately clear traversing the streets of Luoyang is the fact that it is one of China’s Four Great Ancient Capitals. Luoyang was a seat of power for several dynasties- most prominently during the Eastern Zhou and Han dynasties, and later the Sui and Tang dynasties. View full post »

  • hemp - I m talking Luoyang s Longmen Grottoes a string of over 100 000 Buddhist images and statues carved into a hillside during China s Wei and Tang Dynasties..Luoyang s Longmen Grottoes are one of several sites in China for viewing ancient Buddhist cave art besides the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang the Yungang Grottoes near Datong and Bingling Si near Lanzhou. But Luoyang is just four hours from Xi an right on that train line from Beijing so you can easily take in a little ancient cave art before heading to that more famous tourist attraction..And believe me even if they re not number one the Longmen Grottoes are worth the visit.ReplyCancel

Competition Winning Entry for China Comic and Animation Museum in Hangzhou, by Dutch Architects MVRDV

I am often asked about the role of foreign architects working in China – particularly why China even needs foreign architects when there are many qualified Chinese architects. The answer is simple, albeit not the most politically correct: if we compare a piece of architecture to a consumer good, most Chinese buyers of luxury products will opt for a foreign name brand.

The same goes for Chinese developers building high-end real estate. This issue is pondered in an article on eChinacities titled “Foreign Architects in China: Innovation at the Cost of Culture?” Citing well-known examples of high-profile construction projects such as the CCTV Building and Olympic ‘Bird’s Nest’ Stadium in Beijing and the Liujiazui supertall towers in Shanghai, the article’s author wonders if these innovative pieces of architecture come at the expense of Chinese architectural culture. View full post »

  • Denny - Well articulated! Makes total sense. I wonder how long the Chinese “luxury buyer mentality” will stay connected to needed foreign influence as it relates to architecture? In the United States we have witnessed the German auto makers doing a great job of positioning their luxury cars to show off ones status… (BMW being extremely popular in Silicon Valley).
    Keep up the valuable articles!ReplyCancel

  • GO WEST PROJECT » Blog Archive » Adam N. Mayer: An Architect’s Guide to Working in China - […] In terms of big name architects from the U.S. and Europe turning to Asia for work, Gehry is late to the party. Nevertheless, it is a very telling sign that Gehry, someone who in the past could be highly […]ReplyCancel

  • An Architect’s Guide to Working in China | Fuzhong - […] In terms of big name architects from the U.S. and Europe turning to Asia for work, Gehry is late to the party. Nevertheless, it is a very telling sign that Gehry, someone who in the past could be highly […]ReplyCancel

As we’ve pointed out here on China Urban Development, there is no lack of misinformation about China in the Western media. This has been the case for many years and will likely continue into the future. Predicting the collapse of China has even become a career for some pundits.

I started this site to offer a fresh perspective differing from most Western writers in that I actually live in China and work in an industry directly related to the country’s development. I have no illusions that China will transform itself to be more ‘democratic’ like the West, nor do I think that the West needs to copy China’s top-down development model to compete economically. What works in one culture will not necessarily work in another. View full post »

  • Brendan - I don’t disagree that Lane’s understanding of the issue is shallow at best, but the arguments made by Kam Wing Chan, a professor at the University of Washington, are quite valid and profound.’s-high-speed-trains-too-fast-too-furious/

    Love the blog though!ReplyCancel

  • Stephen Smith - I don’t know anything about the Roman aqueducts, but I would argue that America’s most innovative transit came out of not the government-dominated post-war era, but rather in the short period around the turn of the century when profit-driven transportation dominated. Though we’ve mostly destroyed all the evidence, the railroads, subways, elevated lines, and streetcar networks of 1880-1920 were unbelievably innovative, and arguably put us over the top in terms of being a superpower in a way that the Interstates did not.

    Furthermore, though while Japan obviously has its problems, its profit-driven mass transit system is undoubtedly the envy of the world, and far surpasses the American Interstate System in efficiency and technology.

    Anyway, maybe these lessons are not applicable to China, but I personally worry that its enormous leaps in urbanism and transportation are happening at the behest of a centralized government, and not a more market-driven process like America 100 years ago or Japan today.ReplyCancel

  • A Thomas - I, too, agree with the simplistic opinions on China that abound western media, but as someone else pointed out, there are real concerns about the HSR plans. While there is a growing middle class, one would hope that HSR could be priced to alleviate some of the traveling pressures that occur around the various holidays. As far as a previous comment about the private sector and public transit in the early US, it’s much more complex. Developers did provide public transit, but many of them provided it only to their development. It wasn’t a system and it was also highly corrupt. Whether government sponsored or private sector, both have issues.ReplyCancel

    • Adam Nathaniel Mayer - A Thomas, thanks for your comment. Going forward there will definitiely be an emphasis on keeping the ticket prices for China HSR lines affordable for middle-class Chinese travelers. Slowing down the anticipated speeds should help achieve this aim.

      I would also like to emphasize again that despite all the talk about ticket prices being unaffordable, every time I have been on a high-speed rail line in China the trains have been packed with nearly every seat full…so someone must be riding these trains.

      Regarding transit development in the U.S., I think the ideological debate of ‘public’ versus ‘private’ investment is irrelevant. I agree with you that both have issues but in the future it seems like if the U.S. wants to get anything built, government and the private sector or going to have to find a way to work together.ReplyCancel

  • Michael in SZ - Maybe they have been too quick with the construction. I ft hey had gone a little slower they would have been able to avoid the mess that resulted from the corruption. Good to see ticket prices going down.

    My main complaint is that they are either locating the stations outside the city centers or are designing HSR station as if it is an airport. By treating it as an airport they are not integrating it into the surrounding neighborhood–an island surrounded by highway ribbons in some cases, and farmland in other. Put the density where the infrastructure is, not away from the infrastructure. The potential advantage of HSR over the airplane is that you can locate the station in the city center–reducing the total trip time. That advantage is being wasted.ReplyCancel

    • Adam Nathaniel Mayer - Michael, I too have wondered why many of the new train stations for HSR are located inconveniently outside traditional city centers. I think it has to do mainly with the fact that this is where the most available land for development of this scale is located. As you mentioned, some of these stations are like airports- gigantic in size…it would not be practical to locate them in areas that would take up such prime real estate.

      With that being said, I think we may see new buildings popping up around these train stations, potentially creating new districts that will themselves be dense urban areas in 10-15 years down the line.ReplyCancel