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Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China
176pp. January 2013
Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China
Author: Bosker, Bianca;
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.

69 illus., 54 in color

For sale in East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand by Hong Kong University Press

Spatial Habitus: Making and Meaning in Asia's Architecture
Published in association with Hong Kong University Press
“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 (23 September 2013)

“Visit Paris and Venice in the same afternoon (in China)” by Frank Langfitt, NPR Blog (20 September 2013)

“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 (30 August 2013)

“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 (6 June 2013)

“The topic is multifaceted, to be sure; Bosker’s account handles it comprehensively, presenting the various angles with patience and care.” —Publishers Weekly (25 February 2013)

“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
Author: Bosker, Bianca;
Bianca Bosker is a graduate of Princeton University. She lives in New York and is senior tech editor at the Huffington Post.
Read an excerpt (PDF).
Foreword by Jerome Silbergeld 

1. Into “the Land of Courtly Enjoyments”: An Introduction to China’s Architectural Mimicry 
2. The Fascination with Faux: Philosophical and Theoretical Drivers of Architectural 

Reproduction in China 
3. Manifestations of Westernization: The Anatomy of China’s Simulacrascapes 
4. Simulacra and the Sino-Psyche: Understanding the Chinese Motivation for Replicating the 

5. Residential Revolution: Inside the Twenty-first Century Chinese Dream 
Conclusion: From Imitation to Innovation?