Fake Paris Real Paris—and more
When you’re in China, Europe is closer than you think.We know the Chinese love Paris – check out the high couture boutiques in the famed Printemps and Galeries Lafayette department stores on Blvd. Haussmann, and you’ll see legions of Chinese tourists. But if you’re in China, it’s possible to see Paris too!
In the city of Tianducheng, on the outskirts of Hangzhou, China, there’s an 11-square-mile assemblage – added to a 2007 luxury real estate development– with buildings that mimic sites and buildings in Paris: the famed Haussmann-style apartment buildings, a park modeled on the gardens at Versailles, and bien sûr, a one-third size replica of the Eiffel Tower. Take a selfie. Read the fastcodesign story
Paris-based photographer Francois Prost has photographed both places and is preparing a book with photos of authentic French sites and recreated ones in China! Check out Paris Syndrome on his web site—you’ll be stunned by similarities.
But there’s more! The Guardian reported last year on the Chinese urbanization scheme: years of creating “ghost cities” in the underdeveloped interior and the sparsely populated “wild west” –a scheme known as Gansu Province’s Lanzou New Area, intended to push people into the interior. Mountains were leveled, rural villages destroyed. Now along with towering apartment buildings you’ll find replicas of the Great Sphinx of Egypt, the Greek Parthenon, Beijing’s Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. What you see too little of is actual residents.
And more. In Huizhou, Guangdong province, they’ve recreated Hallstatt, a replica of the upper Austrian town, down to the piped in birdsong and “Sound of Music” music tracks. In the suburbs of Shanghai, you’ll find British, Dutch and German-themed suburbs. Are these areas being populated ? Are they vibrant? Time will tell. Wade Shepard writes about Ghost Cities of China in his 2015 book. Read the review
Venice: Cruise Ship Solution?
Venice was a world power In the late 13th century, a maritime giant and Europe’s most prosperous city. Needless to say, things went downhill from there—owing to the Black Death, Napoleon’s incursions and other events. Today it’s a World Heritage site and go-to destination for some 30 million tourists annually who threaten to cripple the fragile 118-island city with their exuberance– especially daytrippers from gigantic cruise ships. We reported in August 2017 that efforts were deadlocked to limit giant cruise ships that travel down the Giudecca Canal and block views of fabled landmarks , discharging thousands of people onto the narrow streets—an “eat and run” experience.
Now there’s better news. The New York Times reported in November that Italian lawmakers have approved a scheme to keep the largest cruise ships—those weighing more than 96,000 tons– off the Guidecca Canal, traveling instead through another canal and to a new passenger port that will be built in the northern industrial area of Marghera. It will take until 2020 to complete this scheme – and fingers are crossed that nothing stands in the way. However, as the Times, notes, “Smaller ships, weighing 55,000 to 96,000 tons, will still be allowed to rock the gondolas in the heavily trafficked portions of the lagoon. So-called “eat and run” tourism by cruise ship daytrippers is having a deleterious effect on the city, so say many preservationists and locals.
Venice Postscript—a new book! Three exceptional women—from Milan, London and New York—are featured in this new, true account of how they were (serially) tethered to “an unfinished palazzo” on Venice’s Grand Canal in the 20th century. These were women of intellectual curiosity, passion and mettle. Of the three, the tale of heiress Peggy Guggenheim is best known, for collecting brilliant artists as lovers and investing in their work—which later resulted in the palazzo becoming the famed Guggenheim Museum in Venice. Here for the first time you can read how all three– Luisa Casati, Doris Castlerosse and Guggenheim – inhabited the cultural and social worlds of Venice with grit and gusto. The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice: The Stories of Luisa Casati, Doris Castlerosse and Peggy Guggenheim, Judith Mackrell. (Thames & Hudson) $34.95. Read the New York Times review.
London’s Floating Bookstore
You can’t be closer to the British Library – a world renowned venue currently hosting the Harry Potter magic exhibition through Feb 28 – than being on London’s Regent’s Canal. That’s the distinction of Word on the Water, London’s only floating bookstore–housed in a 50-foot canalboat– operated by two 50ish guys who met up serendipitously while on a canal walk! Their (third) partner, who’s French, owns the 1920s Dutch barge.
Jonathan Privett, who was living on a canalboat (a thriving subculture that also exists in Amsterdam!) already had bookselling experience operating in street stalls. Paddy Screech, an Oxford English lit grad, was casting about for his next venue.
While bookstores took a downward plunge in the 2000’s (Borders closed all its bookstores in Britain in 2008), these guys found a potent combination in their 2010 startup– water and words! Their customers are so loyal they sometimes leave books to add to the shelves! Read the full backstory in this delightful New York Times article.
NOLA Celebrates 300 Years
It’s got soul, it’s got music, it’s got world vibe, great food scene and plenty of diversity. New Orleans is probably the least U.S.-like city in the U.S. And now it’s celebrating its 300th anniversary, after the French founding in 1718 and Spanish rule in the 18th century, along with rich African-American and Creole culture. The city is having a year-long celebration – pick your season and unique venue. It could be Mardi Gras (on steroids) that’s coming up February 13 – with parades, beads and a party-hearty time. (Check the schedule)
Or consider Halloween on Bourbon Street (I’ve done it!) where revelers on the street mingle with cops on horseback. Plus there’s 135 festivals every year.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band – a world traveling ensemble housed in a rickety historic building near Bourbon Street– is a required experience (I’ve been there too–standing room only). Like jamming? See this Preservation Hall recent video of “Santiago”
Check out the events and pick your time to joint the celebration.
Mexico City: Oh, What a Façade!
Lucky Pernod Ricard! Belzberg Architects of California have created an ingenious façade for the French beverage company’s Latin American offices – called Threads– in Mexico City’s historic Cuauhtémoc neighborhood.
The six-story building is wrapped with 272 curving vertical aluminum strips (custom manufactured in California) that frame the façade and ingeniously create private areas inside. The exterior effect, on two street-facing elevations, makes it a standout among concrete-block structures in a neighborhood that is being revitalized with new office buildings and condos. Read the full Dezeen story. See other examples of Belzberg’s work.
Teeming Jakarta will sink first! Is Miami far behind?
“Jakarta [Indonesia] is sinking faster than any other big city on the planet, faster, even, than climate change is causing the sea to rise — so surreally fast that rivers sometimes flow upstream, ordinary rains regularly swamp neighborhoods and buildings slowly disappear underground, swallowed by the earth.” So reports New York Times contributor Michael Kimmelman in an excellent lengthy story.
This is a mammoth area of some 30 million people, endangered by ample political corruption, rampant overdevelopment, almost nonexistent sewage management, illegal well digging—what Kimmelman calls “self-inflicted wounds.”
Then there’s climate change – extreme weather, freak storms that cause flooding and a possible increase of three feet in sea level within the next century. “Hydrologists say the city has only a decade to halt its sinking,” Kimmelman reports.“ If it can’t, northern Jakarta, with its millions of residents, will end up underwater, along with much of the nation’s economy.” Read Kimmelman’s story and other pieces he has reported on world cities under duress.
Europe’s Green Capital 2018 – Nijmegen, The Netherlands
The oldest city in The Netherlands – its 2,000th anniversary was celebrated in 2005 — Nijmegen is often remembered as a heavily bombed city during the 1944 Operation Market Garden campaign in World War II, with significant loss of life, buildings and bridges.
Today it is a growing city of 170,000 in eastern Netherlands, with far-reaching plans to achieve its green ambitions. These contributed to its designation in 2018 as the EU’s European Green Capital for 2018.
“Nijmegen aims to become energy neutral by 2045 and climate proof by 2050, and wants to reach these objectives together with its local stakeholders; the city considers its inhabitants, entrepreneurs and knowledge institutions as integral to its environmental improvement.”
“The city is also running a new campaign called ‘Green Connects’ to increase civil participation in the development of green and blue infrastructure and biodiversity projects. Other examples include the expansion of green space in the city centre, a badger habitat protection project, and ‘permablitzes’ where teams carry out very quick garden makeovers throughout the city.”
Perhaps most impressive is the extent of public participation in creating a windmill park to achieve energy self-reliance. Thousands of people bought shares in the wind turbines abd built bankers’ confidence in the project. Construction of four turbines is now underway—to provide energy to some 7000 homes in the city. Learn more about the European Green Capitals program and Nijmegen
Aussies Top the Global Livability Rankings
For seven years in a row Melbourne, Australia, has ranked # 1 in the Global Livability rankings (2011-2017) by the Economist, whose EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit) has conducted annual ratings since 2002 on 140 cities worldwide, based on stability, healthcare, culture, environment, education and infrastructure. Vienna ranks second, and Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada) is third. See the full rankings
This year’s top 10 is identical to last year’s, with Adelaide, Perth, Auckland, Helsinki and Hamburg all making the cut.
Top 10 | Most livable cities
In the U.S., Honolulu was the top tier city (19) with Washington DC at 31, and New York at 55.
Other notable cities include Tokyo (15), Paris (29), Coipenhagen (22 ), Amsterdam (26), Rome (44), London (55), Buenos Aires (62), Beijing (69). Rounding out the bottom are Lagos (Nigeria 137), Dhaka (Bangladesh 139) and Damascus (Syria, 140). Read the Telegraph story for more details.
WE LOVE CITIES: Want more news and updates? We’ve published stories on dozens of world cities over the last five years. You can access everything from our homepage — go to the Categories catalogue (on the right of the homepage) and click on “Cities,” and scroll to read about Moscow, New York, Copenhagen, etc.
Want to do something easy? The August 2017 edition of Cities features Rekjyavik Iceland’s new concert hall and swelling popularity with travelers, Hamburg’s new waterfront “city” known as HafenCity (with a fabulous philharmonic hall), Rotterdam’s innovations from gigantic indoor Markthal to floating forests, Rome’s water problems, and “eat and run” tourism in Venice.