Posts Tagged ‘development’



Peak Consumption at the New Century Global Centre Goes in Chengdu

The New Century Global Center is the largest building in the world in terms of floor space.

The opening of the New Century Global Centre marked a new pinnacle for temples of consumption in China. Catering to the 14 million constituents of Chengdu, it is the largest building on the planet in terms of floor space and hosts all the necessities for the “modern” and “harmonious” Chinese Dream. The bulky complex boasts apartments, offices, conference rooms, a university complex, luxury malls, a skating rink, an IMAX theatre, and two luxury hotels with “ocean views” of an artificial indoor beach flanked by a faux Mediterranean village. One could potentially live a full life under a single roof especially with a 500ft LCD screen in the water park projecting simulated sunsets. The opening of the complex this past summer was mired in controversy though, as the billionaire behind the project, Deng Hong, is now missing and presumed in police custody. More than fifty other government officials including the mayor of Chengdu were also detained in what appears to be a massive corruption scandal at the heart of one of China’s fastest growing metropolises. Such lavish projects are meant to cater to a rising tide of urban migrants looking to enact lavish consumer lifestyles in China’s rapidly expanding cities, but the New Century Global Centre seems to be another vehicle for the personal enrichment of a select group of businessmen and municipal officials. The management office of the building claims that all the spaces are sold, but it appears to be filling up very slowly. The future of the New Century Global Centre will be an interesting litmus test for similar outsized urban development projects across China.

The Paradise Island Park sits under a massive atrium at the center of the New Century Global Centre in Chengdu.

The Paradise Island Park sits under a massive atrium at the center of the New Century Global Centre in Chengdu.

The Paradise Island Park sits under a massive atrium at the center of the New Century Global Centre in Chengdu.

A Zaha Hadid-designed art center will eventually be built across from the New Century Global Center.

A master model of the New Century Global Center sits on display for in the center's main office.

A massive atrium sits at the center of the New Century Global Center and houses the Paradise Island Waterpark.

The New Century Global Center is the largest building in the world.

The Paradise Island Park sits under a massive atrium at the center of the New Century Global Centre in Chengdu.

The New Century Global Center houses a massive mall with both domestic and international brands.

The Paradise Island Park sits under a massive atrium at the center of the New Century Global Centre in Chengdu.

The Paradise Island Park sits under a massive atrium at the center of the New Century Global Centre in Chengdu.

The Paradise Island Park sits under a massive atrium at the center of the New Century Global Centre in Chengdu.

The Lotte department store in the New Century Global Center contains dioramas and wall paintings for customers to pose with while shopping.

The Lotte department store in the New Century Global Center contains dioramas and wall paintings for customers to pose with while shopping.

The Paradise Island Park sits under a massive atrium at the center of the New Century Global Centre in Chengdu.

The Paradise Island Park sits under a massive atrium at the center of the New Century Global Centre in Chengdu.

The New Century Global Center is the largest building in the world.The New Century Global Center is the largest building in the world in terms of floor space.

A massive atrium sits at the center of the New Century Global Center and houses the Paradise Island Waterpark.

The Paradise Island Park sits under a massive atrium at the center of the New Century Global Centre in Chengdu.



    Counterfeit Paradises in the Media

    Counterfeit Paradises is seeing a lot of play this year. So far it was featured in Bloomberg Businessweek in the United States, Wired in the United Kingdom, and Sonntagsblick Magazine in Switzerland. A big Stern feature will also show up in Germany sometime in the coming months. More importantly, I am in the midst of speaking to a number of publishers about a Counterfeit Paradises book. Hopefully more details will become apparent in the near future. Otherwise, check out an updated description of the project as well as an expanded cut here.

    Given the choice between a good hell and a counterfeit paradise, what will people choose? Whatever you say, many people will believe that a counterfeit paradise has got to be better than a good hell. Though at first they recognize that the paradise is bogus, they either don’t dare or wish to expose it as such. As time passes, they forget that it’s not real and actually begin to defend it, insisting that it’s the only paradise in existence.” – Chan Koonchung

    China’s grand development plan continues to grow at an unrelenting pace. It is undoubtedly the largest infrastructure buildout in the history of mankind. However, too much is at stake to slow down such a gargantuan economic force, even as cracks appear in it across the country. Pollution, relentless traffic, and corruption are now a daily part of urban life. Counterfeit Paradises explores these cracks through the “harmonious” cities and sites of leisure emerging throughout China. Such locations are shaping a greater architecture of materialism that gives rise to unsustainable consumer patterns. A billion more people in China cannot live in the same manner as urbanites in American and Europe. The pooled natural resources of the planet could not bear it. For now the Chinese nouveau riche partake in an imagined space of contentment even as reassuring political rhetoric regarding the trappings of their “modern” lifestyles wears thin. This fantasy plays out in many spaces: newfangled municipal districts, communist heritage sites, amusement parks, cultural institutions, and themed luxury residential developments. They all serve to prop up a consumer paradigm that is increasingly important to the short-term economic growth of China but detrimental to its long-term sustainability. The hopes and dreams of many are woven into such spurious ventures, even if in practice many of them remain underused. These fanciful but alienating terrains are the Counterfeit Paradises of China.

    Clippings from the Counterfeit Paradises project investigating urban development and leisure habits in China.

    Clippings from the Counterfeit Paradises project investigating urban development and leisure habits in China.

    Clippings from the Counterfeit Paradises project investigating urban development and leisure habits in China.

    Clippings from the Counterfeit Paradises project investigating urban development and leisure habits in China.

    Clippings from the Counterfeit Paradises project investigating urban development and leisure habits in China.

    Clippings from the Counterfeit Paradises project investigating urban development and leisure habits in China.

    Clippings from the Counterfeit Paradises project investigating urban development and leisure habits in China.



      Counterfeit Paradises: The Halstatt of China

      The new Hallstatt in Guangdong is now the centerpiece of a massive luxury villa development set against a artificial lake in Guangdong province.

      Hallstatt didn’t even see it coming. The UNESCO World Heritage village nestled against a pristine lake in the Austrian alps hosts thousands of tourists drawn to its picturesque setting. Still, it didn’t realize some of them were slowly taking its measurements in order to recreate it as a whole in China. The new Hallstatt is now the centerpiece of a massive luxury villa development set against a artificial lake in Guangdong province. Although possibly a compliment to the original Hallstatt’s idyllic nature, many of the residents were quite stunned by the development. A local hotel owner told The Telepgraph, “I don’t like the idea of knowing that a team was present here for years measuring, and photographing, and studying us. I would have expected them to approach us directly – the whole thing reminds of a bit of Big Brother is watching.” Although the core of the new Hallstatt is finished, the developers continue to frantically build the surrounding units in order to capitalize on the publicity. It’s success lies on the reception of the ersatz Halstatt centerpiece.

      The new Hallstatt in Guangdong is now the centerpiece of a massive luxury villa development set against a artificial lake in Guangdong province.

      The new Hallstatt in Guangdong is now the centerpiece of a massive luxury villa development set against a artificial lake in Guangdong province.

      The new Hallstatt in Guangdong is now the centerpiece of a massive luxury villa development set against a artificial lake in Guangdong province.

      The new Hallstatt in Guangdong is now the centerpiece of a massive luxury villa development set against a artificial lake in Guangdong province.

      The new Hallstatt in Guangdong is now the centerpiece of a massive luxury villa development set against a artificial lake in Guangdong province.

      The new Hallstatt in Guangdong is now the centerpiece of a massive luxury villa development set against a artificial lake in Guangdong province.

      The new Hallstatt in Guangdong is now the centerpiece of a massive luxury villa development set against a artificial lake in Guangdong province.

      The new Hallstatt in Guangdong is now the centerpiece of a massive luxury villa development set against a artificial lake in Guangdong province.



        Galaxy SOHO Lights Up the Beijing Skyline

        Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

        The recently unveiled Galaxy SOHO literally resembles an array of astral objects with its spherical shapes and blazing lights. It now looms above Beijing’s second ring road. It is supposed to represent a big step forward in architecture and its capability to inspire. Zaha Hadid, the chief architect, made an appearance at the launch with a long talk about the space and the possibilities it represents. A strong sense of hope for the future of Chinese design and fashion filled the air. Translating this into viable products and businesses is the real difficulty, though. Galaxy SOHO is certainly an inspiring place for such imaginative pursuits with its elegant curves and charged globular structures. There are excellent lines of site throughout the complex. But are there enough clientele to actually fill it up and create an active and engaging community? Galaxy SOHO is huge: 330,000 square meters of office and retail space. Plus it sits atop one of the most trafficked intersections in Beijing. Right now Sanlitun SOHO is barely filled, let alone Galaxy SOHO which sees less pedestrian traffic and intense gridlock. I will keep tabs on the complex in the coming months. Hopefully it does not turn into a huge empty space like the many others popping up around the city.

        Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

        Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

        Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

        Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

        Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.



          Counterfeit Paradises in GEO France

          Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Chateau Montaigne

          My Counterfeit Paradises series made made a strong appearance in GEO France this summer. Fourteen pages of shanzhai awesomeness. The magazine commissioned me to shoot all of my favorite ersatz European developments around China. This is only part of the Counterfeit Paradises oeuvre as China’s grand development strategies continue to spread at an unrelenting pace. The series explores the cracks in “harmonious” cities coming into being throughout China, as well as sites of leisure and luxury now enjoyed by the urban elite. This nouveau riche partake in an imagined space of contentment and growth even as a gap widens between the promising rhetoric espoused by municipal governments regarding urban planning and actual implementation. This fantastical future plays out in many spaces including newfangled urban districts, cultural institutions, amusement parks, and themed residential developments. In practice, many remain underused, fanciful but alien terrains. Most of the hopes and dreams woven into this urban fabric remain false in nature. These are only a smattering of the many Counterfeit Paradises in China.

          Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Tianducheng
          Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Florentia Village
          Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Little Holland
          Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Thames Town
          Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Weimar Town
          Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Broad Corporate Campus



            Visions of Modernity at Fahey/Klein Gallery

            Matthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity exhibition installed at Fahey/Klein Gallery

            It is with great pleasure that I announce the opening of my first solo exhibit at the Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles. The show delves into work from my Visions of Modernity project, exploring the unsustainable nature of urban development and consumerism in China. It also features new pieces printed on tarps that run up to 32 feet in length. I am very excited about the installation. It will be open until October 20, 2012 so please check it out if you are in the Los Angeles area. Here is the press release from the gallery:

            MATTHEW NIEDERHAUSER
            Visions of Modernity

            September 6 through October 20, 2012

            The Fahey/Klein Gallery is proud to present Matthew Niederhauser’s unique vision of China’s consumer awakening, Visions of Modernity. Comprised of four distinct series, this extraordinary documenting of Beijing’s rapid social, economic, and technological development in the first decade of the 21st century highlights the unique and idiosyncratic directions of China’s unprecedented growth into, as Niederhauser calls it, China’s “Gilded Age.” As a new capitalist ethos pervades Chinese culture, Niederhauser’s Visions of Modernity documents the complex, fraught, and often-ironic stages of this epic transformation.

            “Megablocks,” the first series in the project, examines the formation of a new Beijing surrounding the capitol’s former imperial core, and with it, a new vision of modern China. Megablocks form as huge swaths of land are fashioned into towering apartment high-rises interwoven with malls and public spaces. Once built, they form distinct urban islands, bounded by grand avenues and hemmed in by larger highways. Their imposing and monotonous facades mark an elaborate transformation of social practices that continues to occur at an alarming pace across the city.

            As megablocks become the status quo across Beijing, they not only drastically reshape the city, but also the manner in which people consume. In 2006, Ikea opened a massive 430,000 square foot location in Beijing, currently the third largest in the world. Stimulated by the construction boom and the increasingly materialistic nature of today’s China, Beijing proved fertile ground for Ikea’s economical but trendy furnishing. In “Homes,” the second series in Visions, shoppers’ desirous looks and gestures abound as they settle into couches, armchairs, and beds, “living” in Ikea’s numerous showrooms. Each photograph suspends the customers in their appropriated Ikea environments, as if they were in their own residences. Here, newfound nesting habits shaped by megablocks are satisfied.

            In the new Beijing economy, no one wants to be a pedestrian, and vehicle purchases in China surpassed the United States for the first time in 2009. The biennial Beijing International Automotive Fair is ground zero for the consumer frenzy and ostentatious materialism of hundreds of thousands of Chinese car enthusiasts. Manufactures gather to capitalize on the seemingly insatiable demand for automobiles. Provocatively styled models strike poses in every booth while eager new consumers clamor to take a seat in their favorite vehicle in the giant exhibition halls. Niederhauser’s “Cars” series epitomizes the praxis of China’s reification and fetishism enabled by the increase of disposable income, opportunity, and a culture of consumption on overdrive.

            But ownership is never enough, and acquisition does not quench the consumer drive. After Beijing’s nouveau riche tire of monotonous megablock apartments and endless traffic jams, they need a vacation. While a passport to the monuments and landmark of the world still signal the highest social status and opportunities of wealth, a favorite local travel destination for the upwardly mobile is the Beijing World Park. Tucked into the southwestern corner of the city, the Beijing World Park boasts over a hundred small-scale replicas of famous monuments and buildings from all over the world. The final series of the quartet, “Vacations,” captures staged encounters with objects of “modern” and “civilized” lifestyles, a bizarre artifact of the post-Communist materialism of China’s meteoric expansion.

            Ultimately, Beijing serves as a template for China’s cultural ambition, and Visions of Modernity epitomizes the competing moral and cultural directions of the largest emerging capitalist market on the planet. Like many established first-world economies, the nouveau riche of Beijing spend most of their disposable income on homes, cars, and vacations. Niederhauser’s Visions frames the tension of desire and acquisition, the fantasy of consumer capitalism being lived out in the façades of Western imports. While China’s exploding population consolidates into ever increasing urban densities, the corresponding rise in wealth enables acquisition as fantasy fulfillment as a replacement for a culture being subsumed by mass-produced facsimiles of history, normalcy, and tradition. Visions of Modernity engages Beijing’s embrace of the mirage of consumer satisfaction, the quixotic pursuit of happiness through the possession of a never ending barrage of the new, the improved, the modern.

            Matthew Niederhauser is an artist, photojournalist, and videographer currently chronicling the massive changes in Chinese culture. His photography has been featured in The New Yorker, National Geographic, New York Magazine, Newsweek, The New York Times, The NYT Magazine, Time, and several important international publications. He continues to develop his documentary projects in China and lives in New York when not abroad. This is his first show at the Fahey/Klein Gallery.

            Matthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity exhibition installed at Fahey/Klein GalleryMatthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity exhibition installed at Fahey/Klein GalleryMatthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity exhibition installed at Fahey/Klein Gallery

            Matthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity exhibition installed at Fahey/Klein GalleryMatthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity exhibition installed at Fahey/Klein Gallery
            Matthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity exhibition installed at Fahey/Klein Gallery

            Matthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity exhibition installed at Fahey/Klein Gallery



              “Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction” – Visions of Modernity in Foreign Policy

              Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction Clipping

              Foreign Policy’s current issue on urban development focuses almost exclusively on China. Relying on research by the McKinsey Global Institute, the magazine delves into the 75 fastest developing metropolises on the planet, 29 of which are in China (Shanghai and Beijing top the list, respectively). It is well worth perusing the actual magazine, which features photographs from my Visions of Modernity project, and delves into the serious ramifications of China’s ambitious infrastructure projects. Many of these unprecedented developmental efforts appear more and more misguided. My panorama of clustered residential developments surrounding the Huilongguan subway stop in northern Beijing, seen above, accompanies a piece entitled Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction. The article investigates many of the issues I explore in Visions of Modernity, the foremost being the unsustainable nature of urban planning in China and how it effects consumer, transportation and leisure habits.

              The Foreign Policy website also features a series from Visions of Modernity where I documented Ikea customers in Beijing who partake in leisurely afternoons settling into faux showrooms scattered throughout the store. Each photograph suspends the shoppers in their appropriated Ikea environments, as if they were in their own homes. Such nascent nesting and consumer habits are catalyzed by the proliferation of individualized apartments in towering residential developments. These are known as megablocks and have become the cornerstone of Chinese urban planning. The monotonous and imposing structures dominate metropolises across China, forming urban islands that extinguish any sense of fluidity within cities. Although Foreign Policy delves into transportation and architectural projects that give some cause for optimism, such stratagems simply don’t exist on a scale to keep up with the massive urban migration China is experiencing and the concomitant demands on natural resources and energy. In many ways, I must agree with Ai Weiwei’s dark assessment of the plight of China’s cities. It can all seem very bleak. More panoramas of Beijing from Visions of Modernity are below.

              Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Beijing Megablocks
              Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Beijing Megablocks
              Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Beijing Megablocks



                “Building the American Dream in China” for The New York Times Magazine

                Matthew Niederhauser's opening spread for "Building the American Dream, In China" in The New York Times Magazine

                I finally got an opportunity to shoot for The New York Times Magazine. They sent me to Harbin with Daniel Gillen, a young American architect who transplanted to Beijing to ride the wave of audacious infrastructure projects being built across China. He currently works for MAD, founded by Ma Yansong and one of the leading domestic firms in China. Over the past few years MAD was tapped to build a number of cultural centers and museums in their consistently curvilinear style, including the recently completed Ordos Museum and the China Wood Sculpture Museum that I photographed in Harbin. Unfortunately these grand architectural flourishes are usually just showpieces in much larger megablock developments – a small nod to innovation amongst a greater sea of mundane urbanity. Whether or not they actually see any use is still in question. In an ideal world they will become centers of creativity, but in the meantime, Daniel Gillen is only there to build them.

                MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses outside the Harbin Wood Sculpture Museum.

                MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses underneath the Harbin Cultural Island.
                MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses with the Harbin Cultural Island.

                MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses with the Harbin Cultural Island.

                MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses outside the Harbin Wood Sculpture Museum.
                MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses outside the Harbin Wood Sculpture Museum.

                MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses inside the Harbin Wood Sculpture Museum.



                  “Tigress Tycoons” for Newsweek

                  Zhang Xin/张欣, Yang Lan/杨澜, Zhang Yan/张兰 and Amy Chua pose for a portrait at Capital M in Beijing, China for Newsweek.

                  This was one of my most intimidating assignments to date: a portrait of three of the richest females in China along with Amy Chua, the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in less than ten minutes before their power dinner. It really was a Tigress Tycoons showdown. The leader of the streak, in my eyes, was Zhang Xin/张欣 (far right). Her company, SOHO China, is easily one of the top real estate developers in China, building some of the most daring (and sometimes dastardly) megablocks in the country. These properties reshaped Beijing’s skyline and netted her about $2.7 billion. Forbes and the Financial Times consistently list Zhang Xin as a top businesswomen in Asia. Her biography is also staggering. She saved up money working in Hong Kong garment sweatshops before moving to England to study at Cambridge and on to New York City to work at Goldman Sachs. Amazing. Next to Zhang Xin is Yang Lan/杨澜, also know as the “Oprah of China” thanks to her massive television presence and media empire. While not a rags to riches story like Zhang Xin, Yang Lan hit it big on Chinese domestic television, sometimes garnering viewing audiences in the hundreds of millions. She was one of the first talk show hosts in mainland China who really spoke her mind and cofounded Sun Television Cybernetworks.

                  Last and certainly not least of the Tigress Tycoons is Zhang Yan/张兰 (far left). She founded the popular South Beauty restaurants with now boasts over forty locations throughout the country. Known for their opulent settings, they also serve up extremely tasty Sichuan fair. Zhang Yan completed the female power trifecta. Amy Chua is nothing to scoff at of course, but fits into a different category with her academic and literary accolades. Her book promoting the “Tiger Mother” parenting method  sent waves around the world, especially in mainland China. There is even now an “Eagle Dad” spinoff category. Anyway, it was a bit tense at first getting all the ladies together, but thanks to the antics of Zhang Xin’s husband, Pan Shiyi, who decided to take photos along with me, the ten minutes passed without a hitch. Be sure to check out Amy Chua’s accompanying profile of the Tigress Tycoons.

                  Zhang Xin/张欣, Yang Lan/杨澜, Zhang Yan/张兰 and Amy Chua pose for a portrait at Capital M in Beijing, China for Newsweek.



                    Shanghai Awakes: White+ on The Bund

                    The Pudong skyline at dawn in Shanghai, China.

                    This is a bit of an oddity. I would go so far as to call it an accidental music video. Last September I ended up on The Bund at dawn in Shanghai. This should happen at least once in your lifetime. Ostensibly I was there to photograph a performance by the talented and capable Olek, whose crocheted work I first encountered in New York City this past summer. After she failed to initiate a crocheting enterprise, thanks to the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, I stuck around and watched the sun rise in all its glory over the imposing Pudong skyline. Slowly but surely the entire city awoke around me. My favorite part are the old guys walking backwards for exercise. I find their physicality a strangely fitting metaphor for the urban development occurring around them. It was a beautiful sight. I mashed up the video from that morning with a live performance of White+ recorded at the now defunct D-22. Check out the results below.

                    The bull on the bund at dawn in Shanghai, China.





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