Duplitecture: Architectural Mimicry Thrives in Chinese Cities

China’s construction boom is still revving on and the country is expected to add whole cities in the next decade that will be homes to hundreds of millions of people. But as China’s real estate market and construction boom grows in leaps and bounds, one significant characteristic of the Chinese urban expansion has been the scrupulous and in some cases unethical mimicry of the architectural models of several famous buildings, street, neighbourhoods and villages from the West, a practice that has been aptly named “duplitecture”. Chinese duplitecture has seen several functional replicas of Western architectural facades built in China. In some instances, architectural models that are still under construction have been replicated such as the famous Wangjing SOHO design by Britsh architect Zaha Hadid which was replicated by Chongqing Meiquan 22nd Century. The company has even gone ahead to develop the architectural model ahead of the original concessionaire. This is certainly the darker side of Chinese architectural mimicry but Chinese builders have gone to remarkable lengths to import Western architectural facades into China. One of the most popular duplitecture projects is the Shanghai’s “One City, Nine Towns” project where the city is ringed by 10 replica communities, each  representing major European cities ranging from English cities to Dutch, German, Scandinavian, French, Italian and many others with each of the replica communities having the distinctive architectural language associated with those European and to some extent American cities.


The Replica European Cities in Urban China

China is replicating European cities on a very impressive scale. Examples of this include the little city of “Paris” in Tianducheng with its Parisian Boulevards, landscaped gardens, the Arc de Triomphe, a little Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles! Hallstatt is a beautiful Austrian town which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site but the Chinese have also built an exact “functional” replica of Hallstatt based in Guangdong province. A Chinese real estate mogul fell in love with Hallstatt so much that they decided to replicate the city in China!  Other remarkable cases of duplitecture include the Thames Village outside Shanghai and the “Chinese Manhattan” in Yuijapu.

The “Paris” in Tianducheng

The “Paris” in Tianducheng

What drives Chinese Duplitecture?

China has had a long going fascination with West just as many Westerners have had an intense fascination with the Orient but is the remarkable Chinese duplitecture a mere manifestation of this fascination with all things Western? One writer has at least delved deeper into this intriguing phenomenon in Chinese Urban development. In her book, Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China, Bianca Bosker delves deeper into Chinese duplitecture, the people who live in the themescapes and tries to enter the minds of the Chinese  developers who build these massive replica copycat cities and communities.

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