This was an article first published in the Architecture Source (13.11.12) discussing China’s rapid urban development and the social effects attached to such growth. The article talks about the same dilemma encountered in other fast-developing countries, namely the ability of a government to mass-develop a city, yet once completed it lies abandoned. Lack of infrastructure and services, no pre-existing economy or culture and higher housing prices all conspire to make it a fairly unattractive option for locals to uproot themselves from their families, communities and businesses to set up in a brand new development outside the city. The result: empty concrete cities.
I’ve witnessed these ghost developments myself on the many road trips I’ve undertaken in the last few years, especially when journeying along the coast. Driving along a two lane highway all of a sudden you happen upon wide intersections with newly painted white lines and landscaped shrubbery. Glass structures start popping up amongst tree-lined streets and everything looks… nice. There’s only one small issue and that’s that usually these places are only half occupied or less, giving off a distinct feeling of being deserted, with a conspicuously eerie vibe. The point is it takes more than a few concrete and glass buildings and some widened roads to create a new city. A city has to work for the people living there and that’s not something that can be hurried along, no matter the current pace of urban development.