Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
A luxury real estate developer in Hangzhou thought it could cash in on China's love for all things French. It hasn't worked out that way.
As absurd as it looks, it likely comes at no surprise: there's an Eiffel Tower in the middle of China. Tianducheng, a Parisian fantasy in the form of a luxury real estate development in Hangzhou, China, has been gradually built out since 2007.
Despite China's well-documented love for all things French, the ambitious development hasn't translated into success for the developers hoping to cash in on China's aspirational European tastes. Surrounded by a confusing mix of farmland and wide, abruptly ending roads, Tianducheng is now considered by local media to be a ghost town, its population well short of the 10,000 it can support.
Earlier this year, Henry Grabar wrote about China's architectural copycat culture, citing some of the unique details of what it's like to actually walk around Tianducheng in particular:
Tianducheng, a miniature Paris near Hangzhou, has an Eiffel Tower over 300 feet high, and a replica of a fountain from the Luxemburg Gardens in a main square called "Champs Elysées." But it also has "a driver in a top hat and tails [who] drives a horse and buggy to a yellow church at the top of a hill, where a Chinese 'priest' in black robes and white clerical collar stages Western wedding ceremonies at an altar hung with a cross."
Below, Reuters photographer Aly Song gives us a glimpse of the average day around the faux-Parisian development, a place where China's aspirations and traditions awkwardly collide: