The culture that is China (Austria)

by on June 20, 2011 at 5:07 am in Economics | Permalink

Residents of the Austrian mountain town of Hallstatt, population 800, are scandalized. A Chinese firm has plans to replicate the village — including its famous lake — in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, Austrian media reported this week.

The Chinese have been “spying” on the town for some time.  Here is more:

But 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.

This isn’t the first time a Chinese firm has used a European place as inspiration. The Chinese city of Anting, some 30 kilometers from Shanghai, created a district designed to accommodate 20,000 residents called “German Town Anting.” Modelled after a typical mid-size German city by architecture firm Albert Speer & Partner, it includes Bauhaus style architecture and a fountain with statues of Goethe and Schiller.

In 2005 Chengdu British Town was modelled on the English town of Dorchester. One year later Thames Town was finished near Shanghai, complete with a 66-meter tall church that bears a striking resemblance to a cathedral in Bristol. Also near Shanghai are mini versions of Barcelona, Venice and the Scandinavian-inspired Nordic Town. The architectural plagiarisms are popular destinations among middle-class Chinese, even serving as backdrops for wedding photos.

There are good photos at the link (excellent slideshow), and you will see that the town is eminently copyable.  It’s funny how a town gets insulted when outsiders start taking its kitsch seriously as proper kitsch.

1 Dan June 20, 2011 at 5:47 am

Did anyone sue for copyright infringement when Disney World did this?

2 scineram June 20, 2011 at 6:58 am

Disney writes copyright laws, so would have been pointless.

3 Alan Kay June 20, 2011 at 6:33 am

Hilarious. The Chinese make a fuss of ‘doing it their way’, i.e., not being western, but studiously copy western lifestyle including communities. It’s their Disneyland.

4 Charles June 20, 2011 at 6:44 am

I’ve been to Hallstatt (lovely place). Are they planning to copy the skulls as well:

5 tkehler June 20, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Sure, I hear they’ve ensured themselves a supply of Tibetian monk skulls.

6 John Thacker June 20, 2011 at 7:12 am

Not that different from Leavenworth, WA, is it?

7 Juan June 20, 2011 at 8:00 am

Albert Jr. should have let his partner name the firm, I think…

8 Dan June 20, 2011 at 8:36 am

Another wrinkle: the Thames Town mentioned in the article is completely deserted:

9 anon June 20, 2011 at 9:23 am

This post should really be titled “Austro-Chinese business cycle theory, construction edition.”

10 Nick_L June 20, 2011 at 9:35 am

If only the Chinese had copied the legal & judicial structures too, the Austrians might have some hope of legal action. Question: what should the Chinese copy from the West?

11 snarkster June 21, 2011 at 11:56 am

Vegas baby. Go full-on meta.

12 Sid the sidious June 20, 2011 at 10:15 am

Using the photo as reference: I’m picturing the Chinese version with Smog, a greenish lake, an a floating island of cigarette butts.

13 JasonL June 20, 2011 at 10:29 am

The more they build empty cities the more nervous I get.

14 Todd June 20, 2011 at 11:00 am

Next on the list for China’s reverse engineers: Originality.

15 Jim June 20, 2011 at 11:46 am

Maybe they should copy Newark instead.

16 CPV June 20, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Not too different than what goes on in Las Vegas is it? Not sure if the real article can ever properly be called kitsch…….

17 Lord June 20, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Future movie sets!

18 Memnon June 20, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Seriously, Albert Speer & Partner?

19 adamc June 20, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Man, they’re behind the times. Japan did this YEARS ago.

20 Scoop June 20, 2011 at 4:29 pm

The concept of kitsch may be the most destructive idea of modernity. Copying beautiful things is not only not a bad thing, it’s an incredibly smart thing. The stupid thing is trying to come up with a great original idea when others have already thought of good solutions for your problem. Contra popular opinion, the copies are often better than the orignal. Beaux Arts is not a kitschy effort to copy antiquity. It was a brilliant application of long discovered truth about human taste to a new age. And even when copies are not as good as the brilliant orignal they ape, they’re generally better than efforts at novelty. The Bankers Trust building (14 Wall Street) is infinitely better than the Seagram Building. The fact that supposedly sophisticated people believe otherwise — or feel they must claim to believe otherwise to signal their sophistication — is probably the biggest reason why the overwhelming majority of environments built after WWI fail.

21 jimmyA June 20, 2011 at 4:31 pm

The Greek should sue Nashville in building an exact replica of Parthenon. lol

22 Pishab June 26, 2011 at 1:03 pm

And Memphis for the Pyramid arena

23 jkl June 20, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Albert Speer had his hands bathed in blood but he was a great architect like Porsche was a great designer and our Von Braun was great rocket designer.

24 David Mershon June 20, 2011 at 9:53 pm


25 JH June 22, 2011 at 12:30 am

A metals trading company with a real estate subsidiary building a replica Austrian village in the countryside definitely harks back to peak-of-the-bubble Japan.

26 Pishab June 26, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Can’t wait until they copy San Francisco’s Chinatown

27 Pishab June 26, 2011 at 1:04 pm

BTW, most of China’s factory towns were influenced by Gary,IN

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