February 8, 2013 7:14 PM EST
In Chinese Buildings, a Copycat Craze
Duplicating Versailles, the Chrysler Building or the White House is seen as a mark of skill and superiority
By BIANCA BOSKER
In Beijing, the new Wangjing SOHO complex, a trio of curvy office buildings designed by the internationally acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid, is slowly rising in the smog-filled skyline. Meanwhile, 1,000 miles south, a set of two buildings is going up—and the design looks just like Ms. Hadid's, say the backers of the Beijing complex.
The other development company has denied copying the design and coined a slogan about its project. "Never meant to copy," reads a pitch posted on the firm's official microblog. "Only want to surpass."
That motto could be the mantra for China's massive movement in architectural mimicry. To show they are making it big, the Chinese have turned to faking it big.
In recent years, some of the nation's real-estate developers and even government officials have been churning out detailed counterfeits of the West's greatest architectural hits, from Unesco World Heritage sites to Le Corbusier gems to Manhattan skyscrapers.
Replica of the Austrian alpine town Hallstatt in Guangdong Province, China. Photograph: Alex Hofford/Sinopix/Rex
Tianjin's replica of New York City in China. Photograph: Getty
Now a barbecue restaurant ... Ronchamp in Zhengzhou, 2004. Photograph: CAIP/Blogspot