As if I were being poked repeatedly in the eye with a blunt stick, I cannot avoid becoming increasingly aware of a painfully cynical trend in London architecture which threatens to turn the city into the backlot of an abandoned movie studio. If walls could speak, these would tell tales of bad compromises and angry developers who, dissatisfied with the meagre notion of repair and reuse, are driven solely by remorseless greed.
Meanwhile, bullied into sacrificing historic buildings of merit, cowed planning authorities must take consolation in the small mercy of retaining a facade. The result is that architects are humiliated into creating passive-aggressive structures, like the examples you see below – gross hybrids of conflicted intentions that scream ‘Look what you made me do!’ in bitter petulant resentment.
‘A kind of authenticity’ is British Land’s oxymoronical attempt to sell this approach in their Norton Folgate publicity, as if there were fifty-seven varieties of authenticity, when ‘authentic’ is not a relative term – something is either authentic or it is phoney.
In Tianducheng, on the outskkirts of Hangzhou in east China’s Zhejiang Province a Pariisan streetscape facsimile is taking shape. It has all the bits you make expect from an alternate Paris: an Eiffel Tower, a tree lined boulevard, mansard roofs galore. 2000 people reportedly live there,
We are aware that reporting on zany building in China is cliché, but then it struck us: what if China wasn’t behind this after all? What if France was? What if it is an act not of banal facsimile, but one of pre-emptive preservation?
Perhaps France is making a backup copy of itself.
Emails circulated the architecture mail system several times over last year with pictures of Ronchamp sitting in the dusty Chinese city of Zhengzhou. An interesting novelty. But with a portion of Paris also turning up, a pattern is forming.
Could China be the USB external hard-drive of the French built environment? Regular backing up of our data is a just a fact of life for most of us worried that we may lose important data. External USB hard-drives are being made for less and with higher capacities every day, such that the delete button is increasingly becoming irrelevant. So why limit our backups to data? China’s construction industry seems perfect for the task of backing up bricks rather than bits – cheap and powered by the brute force of sheer population. Copies of places may be made in a fraction of the time that it took to create them.
If in the event of a catastrophic episode, the part of France in question could be restored and life would go on as it was before.
Jerry Middleton, 39, from Winchester, Hampshire, was the winner who managed to stay awake touching the vehicle for 81 hours 43 minutes and 31 seconds. He stated that he was going to sell the vehicle to fund a political party. Middleton stood at the 2001 General Election in the Kingston and Surbiton constituency, but gained only 54 votes of a turnout of 49,093.
According to the rules of the competition, disqualification occurred when:
a contestant overran breaks which were 10 minutes every two hours, and 15 minutes every six hours,
a contestant removed both hands from the truck, or
a contestant fell asleep.
Contestants could also be drug tested to ensure fairness.