Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China

Paperback: $30.00
ISBN-13: 9780824836061
Published: January 2013

Additional Information

176 pages | 69 illus., 54 in color
  • About the Book
  • A 108-meter high Eiffel Tower rises above Champs Elysées Square in Hangzhou. A Chengdu residential complex for 200,000 recreates Dorchester, England. An ersatz Queen’s Guard patrols Shanghai’s Thames Town, where pubs and statues of Winston Churchill abound. Gleaming replicas of the White House dot Chinese cities from Fuyang to Shenzhen. These examples are but a sampling of China’s most popular and startling architectural movement: the construction of monumental themed communities that replicate towns and cities in the West.

    Original Copies presents the first definitive chronicle of this remarkable phenomenon in which entire townships appear to have been airlifted from their historic and geographic foundations in Europe and the Americas, and spot-welded to Chinese cities. These copycat constructions are not theme parks but thriving communities where Chinese families raise children, cook dinners, and simulate the experiences of a pseudo-Orange County or Oxford.

    In recounting the untold and evolving story of China’s predilection for replicating the greatest architectural hits of the West, Bianca Bosker explores what this unprecedented experiment in “duplitecture” implies for the social, political, architectural, and commercial landscape of contemporary China. With her lively, authoritative narrative, the author shows us how, in subtle but important ways, these homes and public spaces shape the behavior of their residents, as they reflect the achievements, dreams, and anxieties of those who inhabit them, as well as those of their developers and designers.

    From Chinese philosophical perspectives on copying to twenty-first century market forces, Bosker details the factors giving rise to China’s new breed of building. Her analysis draws on insights from the world’s leading architects, critics and city planners, and on interviews with the residents of these developments.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Bianca Bosker, Author

      Bianca Bosker is a graduate of Princeton University. She lives in New York and is senior tech editor at the Huffington Post.
    • Ronald G. Knapp, Series Editor

      Ronald G. Knapp, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus, State University of New York, New Paltz, where he taught from 1968 to 2001, has been carrying out research on the cultural and historical geography of China since 1965. He is the author or editor of more than twenty books concerning the vernacular architecture of China and Southeast Asia.
    • Xing Ruan, Series Editor

  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • The analysis draws on a wide range of sources from architects, critics, builders, city planners, and residents of the replicated landmarks. Well written and organized, this book contains plenty of vivid photos from real estate brochures, websites, and the author's own camera. It is a valuable read for students who are interested in the cultural and social aspects of architecture in contemporary China.
    • With her lively, authoritative narrative, the author shows us how, in subtle but important ways, these homes and public spaces shape the behavior of their residents, as they reflect the achievements, dreams, and anxieties of those who inhabit them, as well as those of their developers and designers.
    • In her fascinating new book . . . Bosker focuses on the suburbs for the upper class that began to be built in the late 1990s, following the privatization of real estate. These are not just individual buildings but entire streetscapes, with cobblestone alleys, faux churches (often used as concert halls), towers, and landscaping designed to reproduce the feel of European and North American cities. . . . Original Copies is filled with analysis about why these developments flourish.
      NYR Blog
    • The topic is multifaceted, to be sure; Bosker’s account handles it comprehensively, presenting the various angles with patience and care.
      Publishers Weekly
    • Bosker's contribution to our understanding of Chinese architectural mimicry is substantial, the questions she raises are significant, and her interpretations are insightful.
      Shuishan Yu, Northeastern University
    • the central subject matter of her book, Bosker offers a fascinating, in-depth look into new Chinese lifestyles, new notions of self and identity, and unprecedented forms of real estate development.
      Mary-Ann Ray, University of Michigan
    • Original Copies is an insightful account of the rise of consumer society in China and its impact on the elaboration of contemporary Chinese identity, and inspires curiosity and optimism about what is yet to come.
      Jen Hui Bon Hoa, Yonsei University
    • Bianca Bosker, author of Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China, says that ‘China looked for imitation rather than innovation in the period of trying to quickly find a way of adapting to the market and urban design challenges.
      Austin Williams, The Architectural Review
    • Visit Paris and Venice in the same afternoon (in China)
      Frank Langfitt, NPR Blog
    • Drawing upon a thorough grasp of history, original field research that she personally conducted in China, and discussions with leading scholars, Bosker has written a fascinating, nuanced, visually compelling, and extremely readable book about China’s “duplitecture”: the copycat production of iconic versions of Western buildings and cities. While many commentators view these “simulationscapes” as a “form of ‘self-colonization’” that reflects “the body politic’s self-loathing and its glorification of the West,” Bosker convincingly argues that neither historical nor sociological considerations support overly reductive attributions of alienation and abjection.
      Evan Selinger, Los Angeles Review of Books Blog
    • The postmodern predilection for ‘themed’ environments and simulacra has generally been interpreted, in a line that stretches from the Frankfurt School to Baudrillard and Eco, in terms of loss—loss of originality and loss of authenticity. Bianca Bosker turns this line of cultural criticism in a very different direction in a perceptive analysis of architectural mimicry in the cultural context of the ‘new China.’ Through significant and original research, including personal interviews and photographs, Bosker draws a vivid picture of a rapidly changing society in a moment in the self-definition of its wealthier elements. Original Copies will appeal both to specialists in contemporary Chinese studies and to a wider public curious about these arresting images of a consumer society in formation.
      Christian Hubert, Parsons The New School for Design
    • The copying of Western buildings and neighborhoods at the present massive scale in China requires some explaining beyond the universal one of adopting whatever gives immediate prestige. Bianca Bosker argues that, unlike the West, the Chinese put far less emphasis on originality and far more on skill. A skilled reproduction, which Western connoisseurs may call a fake, is itself worthy of admiration to Chinese eyes. Original Copies is itself an original. I have never learned more and been stimulated to think more about architecture, planning, culture and society, China’s future, modernism, and globalism, than I have with the reading of this book.
      Yi-Fu Tuan, University of Wisconsin, Madison
    • If the theme-park atmosphere here seems faux and superficial, Bianca Bosker’s study of this urban phenomenon most decidedly is not. She explicates the motivation behind it and details the reality of it through careful architectural and anthropological investigation, in both image and word. . . . Viewers who would be astonished by the sight of these new towns (Thames Town here, Fontainebleu Villas there, Bauhaus architecture somewhere just up the freeway) will be even more astonished when they read what this book has to say about them, as Ms. Bosker opens the gates and takes us inside.
      Jerome Silbergeld, P. Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Professor in Chinese Art, professor of art and archaeology, Princeton University
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