A series of articles on China’s empty cities triggers a series of Integral City thought capsules and thought experiments.

China Ghost City , Photographed by Caemmerer

China Ghost City , Photographed by Caemmerer

According to a Wired article, China has built 100’s of cities to house millions of people over the next 20 years. Today they stand empty. No people in the apartments. No workers in the workplaces. No vehicles at the intersections. No eyes on the street.

The photographs of the cities are hauntingly dream-like – but they remind me of Burtinsky’s horrifyingly beautiful renditions of industrial pollution.

While America built houses with a sub-prime mortgage scheme that encouraged runaway development and entrapped ordinary workers with financial overheads that became intolerable and too onerous to bear, the state of China has invested in not just houses but whole built cities – now warehoused, waiting for inhabitants.

Which investment scheme has more merit? The one that sucks the breath out of people’s souls or the one that builds “brick lungs” without souls?

Integral City would argue that the built city of bricks and mortar is a container – but incomplete. When the design and purpose of the city container is built without the participation of the inhabitants, it lacks the native intelligences of Culture and Consciousness. It is an exoskeleton without soul.

The Chinese may have hired the best architects, but did they study the history of “housing projects” and people relocations elsewhere? Do they have plans to cope with the hopelessness, addictions and disorientation of the Inuit who were relocated in Canada? Or do they have expectations to cope with the inner city dis-ease and lawlessness that characterizes Toronto’s Regent’s Park or Chicago’s south side (where Jane Jacob’s predicted that the lack of “eyes on the street” would create conditions lacking safety and security). Or do they know how they will prevent the unemployment and clannish enclaves that became the Gorbals in Glasgow?

This is part of a series of blogs on China’s empty cities that triggered a series of Integral City thought capsules and thought experiments. See:

A City Without People is not a City 

Building a [City] Bridge Without Walking On It.

China Why Not House the Refugees in your Empty New Cities?

Burtynsky and Caemerrer Photographs Haunt Cities