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Top 10: China's Copycat Architecture

The B1M | 6:07

Top 10: China's Copycat Architecture

Tom Ravenscroft

8 November 2017

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Copies of some of the world's most famous buildings are appearing in China. Here we take a closer look at this phenomenon and countdown the top ten most head-turning replicas.

OVER the past decade, a succession of familiar looking buildings have been appearing across China.While architects have always used other buildings for inspiration, these Chinese works of architecture go much further and are actually intended to directly replicate some of the world’s most iconic structures. 

These many – and mainly European inspired – copies are often the centerpieces of new Chinese towns. However, in some cases, entire cities have been reproduced. Incredibly these buildings are not theme parks; people actually live and work inside these structures. 

Above: Numerous copies of international landmarks are being built across China (image courtesy of Net Ease).

To those looking on, the approach of replicating an existing building which such accuracy is difficult to understand.

However, according to Bianca Bosker, the author of "Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China", the country sees its replicas in a very different light.

In China, a long history of replication means that copying is not viewed with such hostility. In fact according to Bosker, the Chinese replicas are not homages to the originals, or the result of a lack of imagination, they may be more a statement of power and control.

Bosker believes the buildings are intended to demonstrate that China is powerful enough build and figuratively "own" the world's best architecture.

10. ARC DE TRIOMPHE - HUAXI

We kick-off our list with one of a succession of monuments that has appeared in Huaxi, known as China’s wealthiest village. Huaxi is a known hotspot for mimic architecture and contains several suspect copies – including a reasonably good looking replica of Paris’ famous Arc de Triomphe.

Above: Huaxi contains numerous replicas including a detailed copy of Paris' Arc de Triomphe (image courtesy of The Andrea Di Martino / Alamy).

9. TIANANMEN SQUARE - HUAXI

Huaxi’s other replicas include an attempt at re-creating Sydney Opera House, but surprisingly it is not only international buildings that are being replicated - the village also contains a recreation of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square rostrum.

See what the recreation looks like in the video

8. GREAT WALL OF CHINA - HUAXI

In 2015 the village of Huaxi unveiled its latest attraction; a 2.5-mile-long replica of perhaps the country’s best-known monument – the Great Wall of China. Although the replica is 13,000 miles short of the original, many tourists have apparently been convinced that it is the real thing!

Above: The village of Huaxi includes a 2.5-mile-long replica of the Great Wall of China (image courtesy of Andrea Di Martino / Alamy).

7. KREMLIN - BEIJING

Next on our list is a building that takes inspiration from one of the most famous landmarks in neighbouring Russia.

In a suburb of Beijing; an office complex has been built to closely resemble Moscow's Kremlin. This replica has a less glamorous purpose than the real-deal with the gold-domed complex housing the local government’s seismological, weather, water and landscaping bureaus.

See what Beijing's version of the Kremlin looks like in the video

6. U.S. CAPITOL BUILDING - SHANGHAI

Sixth on our list is a building that combines elements from two of America’s most famous existing buildings. The Shanghai Minhang People's Court is a replica of the United States Capitol Building in Washington D.C., with a little bit of the White House thrown in for good measure.

See how this replica looks in our video.

5. EIFFEL TOWER – LITTLE PARIS

Not content with simply copying individual buildings, entire towns are being created that closely resemble European cities.

At Tianducheng, near Shanghai, a gated community called “Little Paris” was built in 2007. The centrepiece of this new town is 354-foot tall replica of the Eiffel tower.

Above: The Chinese new town know as Little Paris is built around a replica Eiffel Tower (images courtesy of Robert DanielUK).

4. CHRIST CHURCH - THAMES TOWN

About 30 kilometres (19 miles) outside of Shanghai,sits another gated community similar to Little Paris.

This development – designed for a population of 10,000 people – is inspired by a British market town and comes complete with cobbled streets, Victorian terraces, corner shops, a pub and even a fish and chip shop. At its centre is a replica of the Gothic Christ Church in Bristol. Apparently, this spot has become a firm favourite among couples taking their wedding photos.

Step inside this replica British town in our video.

3. WANGJING SOHO - CHONGQING 

While the majority of the buildings featured on this list seem like harmless fun, this building represents a far more serious trend.

In 2015 Zaha Hadid Architects’ "Wangjing Soho" towers – a major office and retail hub in Beijing – was opened. However, before it was even completed, a very convincing replica had appeared in Chongqing, southwest China.

Above: This very convincing replica of Zaha Hadid's Wangjing Soho towers appeared before the original was complete (image courtesy of TCA Think Tank).

2. RONCHAMP CHAPEL, ZHENGZHOU

One of the earliest examples of Chinese copy-cat architecture dates back to 1994.

Forty years after the original Le Corbusier-designed Ronchamp Chapel was built, one of the most important works of modernism re-appeared in Zhengzhou. The replica building no longer exists as the Foundation Le Corbusier, which owns the rights to the design, sued for its demolition.

See how the replica looked in our video

1. TOWER BRIDGE, SUZHOU

Topping our list, as not only the most impressive, but also the most interesting (and somewhat creepy) piece of replica architecture is a recreation of Tower Bridge which was completed in 2012.

While the original stands elegantly across the River Thames in London, this extremely detailed replica is actually mutated with four towers each 40 meters tall, enabling it to accommodate a multi-lane motorway. 

Above and Below: A mutated version of London's Tower Bridge now stands in Suzhou, China (images courtesy of Net Ease).

HAVE YOU SEEN AN EXAMPLE OF COPY-CAT ARCHITECTURE? Let us know in the comments below or on our social media channels.

Images courtesy Robert Danieluk, Matthew Stinson, Felibrilu, Jonathan Browning, Asian Correspondent, Luuluu, Google, Andrea Di Martino / Alamy, CFP, Jia Ting, Bo Gao, Konbini, Matthewniederhauser, Felibrilu, Bricoleurbanism, Roon and Beks, Blaine O'Neill, CCDI, Tca Think Tank and Net Ease.

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