City Double

First there was the replica of Lyons, France, being built in Dubai; it would be a replicant city “of about 700 acres, roughly the size of the Latin Quarter of Paris,” and it would “contain squares, restaurants, cafes and museums.”

[Image: The original Hallstatt, Austria; photo courtesy of Der Spiegel].

Now, though, we learn that a Chinese firm has been “secretly” copying an entire UNESCO-listed village in Austria, called Hallstatt. Residents of the original town are “scandalized,” Der Spiegel reports, by these “plans to replicate the village—including its famous lake—in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.”

After all, in addition to the uncanny experience of seeing your buildings, streets, sidewalks, and even trees repeated on the other side of the world, “creating an exact duplicate of a city may not be legal, according to Hans-Jörg Kaiser from Icomos Austria, the national board for monument preservation under UNESCO. ‘The legal situation still needs to be examined,’ he said. Building new structures based on photographs is legal, he explained, but owners must give their permission for them to be measured.”

Indeed, Der Spiegel adds that “‘spying’ by Chinese architects would not have been conspicuous in Hallstatt, where there are up to 800,000 visitors each year who ‘photograph everything and everyone,'” according to the town’s mayor. This constant, everyday documentation—an archive of the quotidian, rivaling Ulysses—could thus be put to alternative use, not as a seed for nostalgia or as a collection of personal souvenirs, but as a means for generating construction diagrams.

Take a look at some photos of other Chinese duplication spaces, including the photo-friendly Thames Town, modeled after an English village (“when Thames Town was completed in 2006 not everyone was happy about it,” we read. “One English woman complained that her fish and chips restaurant had been copied in exact detail”).

(Link discovered via Peggy Nelson).

4 thoughts on “City Double”

  1. Besides, I thought Thames Town was built in British architecture but not replication of anywhere in particular. Does not make sense to do so with a commercial project.

  2. Thames town was a silly project by even the Chinese standard. We considered the place when it came out and decided it did not worth it. The developer of the projects apparently built much denser than your typical English town and not a lot of people live there anyway. Either the developer lost money or those who bought property there as an investment loose.

    Besides, I doubt there would be any merit for a fish and chip store.

  3. I guess the Austrians have never heard that old chestnut about the sincerest form of flattery.

    Anyway, I for one would love to have someone build a duplicate of my street (house, front garden) halfway around the world, if only so I could go and have my picture taken at it.

  4. Projects like these make Chinese look like copycats in our eyes but there are lots of Chinese extraordinary architectural accomplishments like the residential condominium twin tower skyscraper complex Absolute World Towers in Toronto, designed by new Chinese design stars Yansong and Yosuke Hayano.

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