Original Copies

Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China


Bianca Bosker

ISBN : 978-988-8139-14-9

Architecture, Urban Planning, Environmental Studies

November 2012

176 pages, 7.375″ x 9.25″, 65 color and 17 b&w illus.

For sale in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand only

  • HK$195.00

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 Lencek 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.

Bianca Bosker is a graduate of Princeton University. She lives in New York and is senior tech editor at the Huffington Post.

“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