Posts Tagged ‘leisure’



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: Minsk World Aircraft Carrier Theme Park

      Tourists pose in front of the Minsk World aircraft carrier theme park.

      Chinese nationalism continues to peak with the country’s emerging status as a world power, even if its military technology remains decades behind other nations. In 2012 the People’s Liberation Army christened its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which in actuality is a retrofitted Soviet aircraft carrier, the Varyag. Right now the Liaoning is still years away from being fully operational. It was only recently that a Chinese-manufactured J-15 fighter jet successfully landed on and took off from the aircraft carrier. In open battle the Liaoning would be a large, rather useless, sitting target, but symbolically it is still very potent. Such ex-Soviet aircraft carriers also see other uses in China, including the Minsk, which is now part of the Minsk World military theme park near Shenzhen. Here Chinese patrons can wander exhibits extolling the prowess of the People’s Liberation Army and indulge in other martial fantasies. It is the perfect place to fantasize about China’s future military potential, especially with all the saber rattling occurring over the Diaoyu Islands.

      A couple poses for wedding photographs on the deck of the Minsk World aircraft carrier theme park.

      An attendent walks off the Minsk World aircraft carrier theme park.

      Tourists inspect the deck of the Minsk World aircraft carrier theme park.

      A tourist poses in front of a fake naval backdrop in a hold on the Minsk World aircraft carrier theme park.

      An attendent takes a nap in the cafe at the Minsk World aircraft carrier theme park.

      Old military aircraft pepper the deck of the Minsk World aircraft carrier theme park.

      A stage set up on the deck of the Minsk World aircraft carrier theme park.

      Highrises stand along the shoreline across from the Minsk World aircraft carrier theme park.



        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



          Red China Rising: Bourgeoisie Tourism in the Communist Heartland

          A Mao Zedong effigy sits in front of a backdrop of his former home for tourist photos in Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong and CCP pilgrimage site

          This is the second of a series of posts detailing the bourgeois practices of nouveau-riche, communist-heritage pilgrims who possess expectations and consumer desires that seem at odd with the core ideologies of the founding fathers of the Chinese Revolution. Armed with cash and a new sense of leisure, most of these fledgling tourists first make their way to Shaoshan/韶山, the birthplace of Mao Zedong. A slew of “red” products and trinkets are available around every corner even in the face of sincere reverence for founding Chinese Communist Party leaders that borderlines on idolization. Elderly tourists kowtow to statues of Mao Zedong while company retreats sing “red” songs and pledge oaths. These blind followers make easy prey for egregious tourist traps such as the Shao Yue Palace Maoist Family History Show, where attendants usher punters into Mao Zedong veneration halls, hand out lucky ornaments, ask them to bow to a Mao Zedong statue three times and then try to charge them for the “blessed” ornaments. Some estimate the value of the entire “red” industry at $1.5 billion dollars and Mao Zedong’s hometown is at the epicenter. Also check out the last post in the series on “The Defense of Yan’an” reenactment.

          A company tourist group pays reverence to Mao Zedong by bowing before his large statue near his former home in Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong and CCP pilgrimage site

          Busts of Mao Zedong stand outside a "red" product store in Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong and CCP pilgrimage siteTourists line up to enter Mao Zedong's former home while others take photos outside in Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong and CCP pilgrimage siteStatues of Mao Zedong sit inside a "red" product store in Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong and CCP pilgrimage site

          Attendants at the "Shao Yue Palace Maoist Family History Show" tout "red" products to tourists before ushering them into Mao Zedong veneration halls in Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong and CCP pilgrimage siteTourists have been coming to Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong and CCP pilgrimage site, for almost fifty yearsA "red" product vendor sits at her stall near Mao Zedong's former home in Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong and CCP pilgrimage site

          An advertisement to have your photo taken in traditional CCP soldier garb in Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong and CCP pilgrimage siteA Mao Zedong effigy for tourist photos in Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong and CCP pilgrimage siteRecreations of Mao Zedong's calligraphy for sale in Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong and CCP pilgrimage site

          Tourists wait in a long line outside of Mao Zedong's former home while a tour guide in a pink jumpsuit talks on her cellphone in Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong and CCP pilgrimage siteMao Zedong literature line the stalls near his former home in Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong and CCP pilgrimage siteA child poses in front of Mao Zedong's former home in Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong and CCP pilgrimage site



            Happy Magic Water Park in National Geographic

            Happy Magic Water Park in National Geographic

            It is with great pleasure to announce that a photograph from the Happy Magic Water Park series is in this month’s issue of National Geographic. I have been meeting with editors at the renowned magazine for over a year, and although it’s just a double-page spread, getting into National Geographic was one of those markers I set for myself a long time ago and definitely dreamed about as a kid. Hopefully it will lead to a full feature with them in the future. Also, fellow INSTITUTE photographer Richard Mosse has a spread from his amazing series Infra, which Aperture just published as a monograph. In celebration, I returned to my Happy Magic Water Park material and pulled out some photographs that I have never shown before. Check them out below.

            The Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic Watercube

            The Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic WatercubeThe Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic Watercube

            The Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic WatercubeThe Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic Watercube



              Thames Town: A Quaint Corner of Shanghai

              The skyline of Thames Town includes a replica of the Saint Mary Redcliffe Church in Bristol and the Millenium Bridge in Norwich.

              This place is well documented, but fits into my Counterfeit Paradises series as Shanghai remains one of the fastest growing cities on the planet. In order to keep up with demand, the municipal government must supply housing for up to 400,000 new residents every year. In an effort to provide a bit of flash and diversity to the monotony of Chinese urban sprawl, developers broke ground on Songjiang New City which included nine satellite villages utilizing design elements from various European countries. Thames Town, modeled after quaint English hamlets, was the centerpiece and eventually the largest debacle after failing to attract permanent residents. The English-themed restaurants and stores remain shuttered while the streets only see the passing of young couples posing for wedding photographs. Far from the hustle and bustle of downtown Shanghai, the Thames Town Church seems poised to continue without a congregation for the foreseeable future.

              Bronzes of famous English figures dot Thames Town, incuding a pouty Winston Churchill.

              Bronzes of famous English figures dot Thames Town, incuding a demure Princess Diana.An old man fishes on the artificial lake near the Thames Town yacht club.The most common sight on the streets of Thames Town are couples using the faux English environment for wedding photography.

              The most common sight on the streets of Thames Town are couples using the faux English environment for wedding photography.Bronzes of famous English figures dot Thames Town, incuding the ever-popular Harry Potter.The most common sight on the streets of Thames Town are couples using the faux English environment for wedding photography.

              The most common sight on the streets of Thames Town are couples using the faux English environment for wedding photography.Thames Town comes complete with identical English telephone boxes.Gated communities with expensive villas line the empty Thames Town business district.

              A resident takes her dog for a walk in one of the gated developments that surround Thames Town.The most common sight on the streets of Thames Town are couples using the faux English environment for wedding photography.The suburban English villas sometimes incorporate Chinese elements such as this large stone marker for the house number.

              The Thames Times offices never opened in the first place.Thames Town security all sport the same red outfits, but rarely find themselves busy.The chip shop in Thames Town was copied from a building in Dorset but closed down long ago.



                Plastered T-Shirts Fashion Shootout at Beijing World Park

                Plastered 8 fashion shoot in Beijing World Park - Taj Mahal

                Over the past few years, I have obsessively explored and photographed theme parks all over China. These are some of my favorite places to investigate changing notions of leisure and other trappings of “modern” lifestyles now enjoyed by the country’s nouveau riche. I also fancy myself a bit of a fashion photographer, so I was most pleased when I was approached by Dominick Hill, a friend and famed founder of Plastered 8 T-Shirts, to shoot some photographs at the Beijing World Park alongside Ren Hang, an up-and-coming Chinese photographer with amazing model friends. The theme was ennui. The Beijing World Park is a most unique and amazing place – a shabbier northern cousin of the Windows on the World theme park in Shenzhen. Hundreds of small-scale models of famous monuments, buildings and natural wonders from around the world are spread over expansive grounds. It is a wonderful place to spend an odd afternoon. Here are some of the results.

                Plastered 8 fashion shoot in Beijing World Park - US Capital

                Plastered 8 fashion shoot in Beijing World Park - African Village

                Plastered 8 fashion shoot in Beijing World Park - Angkor WatPlastered 8 fashion shoot in Beijing World Park - ManhattanPlastered 8 fashion shoot in Beijing World Park - Cougar Statue

                Plastered 8 fashion shoot in Beijing World Park - Golden Gate BridgePlastered 8 fashion shoot in Beijing World Park - The MallPlastered 8 fashion shoot in Beijing World Park - Tower Bridge

                Plastered 8 fashion shoot in Beijing World Park - GizaPlastered 8 fashion shoot in Beijing World Park - ColiseumPlastered 8 fashion shoot in Beijing World Park - Sculpture Park



                  Red China Rising: From Revolution to Reaction – “The Defense of Yan’an”

                  Tourists can participate in "The Defence of Yan'an" battle reinactment for an extra fee. Here CCP soldiers prepare to rush the battlefield.

                  As the Chinese Communist Party celebrates it’s 90th anniversary this year, nationalistic tourists are flocking in droves to communist heritage sites across China. Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong, and Yan’an, the cradle of the Chinese Revolution where the Long March ended, now cater to millions of tourists every year. This is going to be the first of a series of posts detailing the bourgeois leisure practices of these nouveau riche pilgrims who possess expectations and consumer desires that seem at odd with the core ideologies of the founding fathers of the Chinese Revolution. The most elaborate attraction in the country is the extremely popular “The Defense of Yan’an” battle reenactment. This spectacle became all the rage thanks to a special twist: for an extra fee observers can don soldier fatigues and participate in the fray. Not only can you observe a pseudo-historical reenactment that spends an inordinate amount of time praising the leadership of Mao, vilifying the KMT and demonstrating the harmonious integration of Shaanxi folk life with communist principles, but you can also tote around guns, get close to the explosions and run wildly around a makeshift village in the name of celebrating revolutionary heritage. The theater of history plays out every afternoon with extra matinees on weekends.

                  Tourists can participate in "The Defence of Yan'an" battle reinactment for an extra fee. Here CCP soldiers prepare to rush the battlefield.

                  Tourists can participate in "The Defence of Yan'an" battle reinactment for an extra fee. Here CCP soldiers prepare to rush the battlefield.Tourists can participate in "The Defence of Yan'an" battle reinactment for an extra fee. Here CCP soldiers prepare to rush the battlefield.Tourists can participate in "The Defence of Yan'an" battle reinactment for an extra fee. Here CCP soldiers prepare to rush the battlefield.

                  Tourists can participate in "The Defence of Yan'an" battle reinactment for an extra fee. Here CCP soldiers prepare to rush the battlefield.Tourists can participate in "The Defence of Yan'an" battle reinactment for an extra fee. Here CCP soldiers prepare to rush the battlefield.Tourists can participate in "The Defence of Yan'an" battle reinactment for an extra fee. Here CCP soldiers prepare to rush the battlefield.

                  Tourists can participate in "The Defence of Yan'an" battle reinactment for an extra fee. Here CCP soldiers prepare to rush the battlefield.Tourists can participate in "The Defence of Yan'an" battle reinactment for an extra fee. Here CCP soldiers prepare to rush the battlefield.Tourists can participate in "The Defence of Yan'an" battle reinactment for an extra fee. Here CCP soldiers prepare to rush the battlefield.

                  Tourists can participate in "The Defence of Yan'an" battle reinactment for an extra fee. Here CCP soldiers prepare to rush the battlefield.



                    Counterfeit Paradises: Windows on the World

                    Visitors scramble up the steps of the United States Capital beneath Mount Rushmore at Windows on the World

                    International vacations are a must for the burgeoning number of nouveau riche across China. A well-used passport is a sure sign of fulfilling a “modern” and “cultured” lifestyle and completes the trifecta of high social status along with ownership of multiple homes and foreign luxury cars. Even in the face of the global economic downturn, China continues to boast the fastest growing outbound tourism market in the world. In 2009, the average expenses paid by Chinese for international travel went up 21% and will continue to grow as more and more flex their purchasing muscle. In Shenzhen, however, a favorite travel destination remains the Windows on the World. A short subway ride from the city center, the park boasts over a hundred small-scale replicas of famous monuments and buildings from all over the world. Here Chinese can fantasize about visiting foreign countries and practice taking tourist photographs. This make-believe space is one of consumer indoctrination and a selling point for a notion of civility that will most likely prove as empty as other social movements in China’s past.

                    A child wearing bunny ears poses for her parents in Piazza San Marco at Windows on the World

                    Crowds fight for position in front of the Sphinx and Giza Pyramids at Windows on the WorldA child attaches herself to the United States White House at Windows on the WorldMount Fuji and the torii gate from the Itsukushima Shrine feature prominently in the Japanese section at Windows on the World

                    A visitor strolls by Mont Saint-Michel at Windows on the WorldTwo ladies pose in front of Angkor Wat at Windows on the World

                    A man crouches in front of the Versailles with Saint Peter's Basilica overlooking its garden at Windows on the WorldA child poses with Native American Indians at Windows on the WorldA child flashes the peace sign in the square in front of Saint Peter's Basilica at Windows on the World

                    Visitors fight for position in front of Niagra at Windows of the WorldA child crawls onto the London Bridge with Parliament in the background at Windows on the WorldA man poses in Gamehenge at Windows on the World

                    A child sits on the shoulder of his father in front of the Taj Mahal at Windows on the WorldVisitors paddle around the Statue of Liberty and Easter Island with Rio de Jenairo's Christo overlooking at Windows on the WorldVisitors clamber over Abu Simbel at Windows on the World





                      All content © 2014 to Matthew Niederhauser