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'One City, Nine Towns' transplants the West into China

March 13, 2013

As a part of the "One City, Nine Towns" initiative, Shanghai has built nine suburban towns in several European modes of architecture. Since the first Western-style housing developments in the 1990s, demand for Western-style housing has increased among Chinese homebuyers.

This initiative seeks to fill that demand in creative ways. "One City, Nine Towns" doesn't simply bring the outside world into China, it reorders that world to its own esthetics, placing D.C. next to Amsterdam. 

"If you look at the official mandate for One City, Nine Towns, one thing listed as priority is learning from the West, learning how to house people and create towns by studying what they've done abroad," said Bianca Bosker, an American journalist and author of "Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China," a book on Chinese copycat architecture.

As China classifies its residents as either urban or rural, the concept of building suburbs is new and there have been bumps in the developments of these communities along the way. The focus on the theme of the architecture may have overshadowed functional aspects of towns, like variety of shops and foods or fast public transport, that would draw in prospective residents.

Those interested in the "One City, Nine Towns" initiative can make calls to China using international phone cards


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