A curious architectural project, the scheme will create nine satellite towns housing the wealthy middle class of Shanghai. China has become well known for its large scale building projects, but this scheme will produce something quite different from the megalith skyscrapers it has become renowned for. Instead each area is being constructed using a different European model, creating discreet neighbourhoods, marked out by their distinctive architecture.
Including English, French, Swedish, German, Italian, Dutch and Spanish pastiches, the effect is more than a little disorientating. The so far unpopulated streets and houses suggest a familiarity to the western eye but with the falsity of a film set.
"Urban Fictions" is Richard Rowland's response to this construction of simulated developments. Interested in how China is inventing a new internationally styled community for people who may never have been to Europe, Richard explores the colonial residues of Shanghai's history. The rivalries of the English, Dutch and French merchant navies since the 17th century made Shanghai one of the most important sea ports in the Far East. European traders may have come to China to buy and sell goods, but they also brought their own ideas and cultural references.
The architecture documented in "Urban Fictions" is a continuation of Shanghai's rich historical and cultural mix, made real in the curiosities of these new towns.