Posts Tagged ‘theme park’



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: 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.



      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



        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.



            Found Objects: Fake Dinosaur Graveyard in Chinese Theme Park

            A fake dinosaur graveyard behind the European Theatre in Tianducheng, China

            Last month I visited Tianducheng outside of Hangzhou to continue work on my Counterfeit Paradises project (see Happy Magic Water Park, New South China Mall and Windows on the World). The French-themed residential development was absurd to say the least – a feature on it is forthcoming. The highlight of the trip for me, however, was not the knockoff Eiffel Tower surrounded by megablocks. I found something else. If you were not aware, you should know now: dinosaurs are AWESOME. I have loved them since I was kid which also coincided with my obsession with Calvin and Hobbes (see Tyrannosaurus Rex in F-14). While photographing the exceptional Roman Theatre in the village theme park attached to Tianducheng, I decided to check out the backstage. What did I eventually stumble upon? A fake dinosaur graveyard, obviously. I mean, what else could you expect from such a place? I subsequently freaked out for about an hour and took hundreds of photos of course. Enjoy…

            A fake dinosaur graveyard behind the European Theatre in Tianducheng, China

            A fake dinosaur graveyard behind the European Theatre in Tianducheng, ChinaA fake dinosaur graveyard behind the European Theatre in Tianducheng, ChinaA fake dinosaur graveyard behind the European Theatre in Tianducheng, China

            A fake dinosaur graveyard behind the European Theatre in Tianducheng, ChinaA fake dinosaur graveyard behind the European Theatre in Tianducheng, ChinaA fake dinosaur graveyard behind the European Theatre in Tianducheng, China

            A fake dinosaur graveyard behind the European Theatre in Tianducheng, ChinaA fake dinosaur graveyard behind the European Theatre in Tianducheng, ChinaA fake dinosaur graveyard behind the European Theatre in Tianducheng, China



              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



                Happy Magic Water Park and Urban Chongqing Clippings

                Chongqing: The Biggest City You've Never Heard Of clipping from Foreign Policy Arabic

                Two of my photo essays have been in wide circulation recently. Chongqing: The Biggest City You’ve Never Heard Of, after its initial release in Foreign Policy, went on to be published in Internazional, Foreign Policy Spain and Foreign Policy Arabic as pictured above. Happy Magic Water Park, one of my favorite photo essays from last year, also showed up in Geo France, Afar and D Magazine as pictured below. I have some new work coming out very soon, so stay tuned.

                Happy Magic Water Park clipping from D MagazineHappy Magic Water Park clipping from D Magazine

                Happy Magic Water Park clipping from D MagazineHappy Magic Water Park clipping from D Magazine



                  Happy Magic Water Park: Reverie and Leisure in Communist China

                  Happy Magic Water Park: Reverie and Leisure in Communist China

                  The Water Cube on Beijing’s Olympic Green is easily one of the most enthralling aquatic centers on the planet. Its bubble-like exterior is almost as recognizable in China as the Mao portrait hanging above the Forbidden City. However, ever since Michael Phelps walked away with eight gold medals in 2008, the Beijing municipal government has struggled to make the complex a commercially viable venture and just recently placed all their hope in an incredibly ornate theme park. The “Happy Magic Water Cube, Beijing Water Cube Water Park,” now dominates the southern end of the structure and caters to an emerging urban elite who can afford the hefty entry price. The water park epitomizes the fantastical escapism so sought after by a burgeoning moneyed class in Beijing. Here one can slip into a state of reverie and forget about the smog-covered skies and endless traffic jams just outside the aqua-blue cellular membrane encasing the Happy Magic Water Park. It is the ultimate leisure playground in a country still coming to grips with profound social inequalities.

                  Happy Magic Water Park: Reverie and Leisure in Communist China

                  Happy Magic Water Park: Reverie and Leisure in Communist ChinaHappy Magic Water Park: Reverie and Leisure in Communist ChinaHappy Magic Water Park: Reverie and Leisure in Communist China

                  Happy Magic Water Park: Reverie and Leisure in Communist China

                  Happy Magic Water Park: Reverie and Leisure in Communist ChinaHappy Magic Water Park: Reverie and Leisure in Communist ChinaHappy Magic Water Park: Reverie and Leisure in Communist China

                  Happy Magic Water Park: Reverie and Leisure in Communist ChinaHappy Magic Water Park: Reverie and Leisure in Communist ChinaHappy Magic Water Park: Reverie and Leisure in Communist China

                  Happy Magic Water Park: Reverie and Leisure in Communist China



                    World Chocolate Wonderland: An Illfated Chinese Theme Park

                    Chocolate Terracotta Warriors stand guard at the World Chocolate Wonderland

                    In another outlandish attempt to draw tourists and locals to the Olympic Green, the World Chocolate Wonderland theme park opened just north of the Bird’s Nest stadium to a mixture of awe and bewilderment. The strange assortment of exhibits and objects made of chocolate defies description. Ranging from individual showcases of the history of chocolate in countries famous for chocolate production, to an entire room of various chocolate reconstructions of household and consumer items, the focus and scope of the theme park is haphazard at best. Walking past the chocolate Terracotta Warriors, a Great Wall of Chocolate, and a life-size chocolate BMW, I couldn’t help but feel the theme park represented another exercise in postmodern irony. The visual feast was also picked up by the BBC and Salon. God knows what the Beijing municipal government will think of next to lure people up to the Olympic Green as they continue to struggle to support its grand infrastructure investments for the 2008 Olympic Games.

                    Candy-themed mascots run around Chocolate WonderlandAnother gymnastics performance at the Chocolate Wonderland

                    A BMW made of chocolate was a main draw at Chocolate WonderlandA sign expounds the merits of the chocolate lifestyle





                      All content © 2014 to Matthew Niederhauser