A few days ago, I happened to catch this interesting piece on PRI’s The World that offered a glimpse into Thames Town, a recently built, faux English village in eastern China. While the reception of this new “village” has been mixed by both architectural critics and local residents, the article explains that:
“…according to [Bianca] Bosker, while many westerners think of knock-off architecture as kitschy and bizarre, many in China find it truly lovely. She says that’s partly because China has a different attitude towards copying. In the West, copying signals a lack of imagination. But in China, she says, ‘mimicry is actually a form of mastery, in a symbolic sense.'”
At the center of the Thames Town development stands a massive replica of an English church. But British architect Tony Mackay, the master planner of Thames Town isn’t pleased with the design.
“Windows are in the wrong place. The proportions are wrong. The use of the different stones is all wrong. It would never be used like that in the genuine English church.”
As historically inaccurate as the church and other structures may be, the Chinese view these knock-off towns as an affordable way to experience a small taste of a foreign country. However, Mackay ultimately thinks they are a fad.
“The younger generations here they don’t want old-fashioned style, they want modernism. They want something new, which connects to their gear, their iPads, and their modern lifestyle.”
While not about ecclesiastical architecture specifically, I think this article offer a lot to ponder in the current architecture wars that are being waged in the realm of church design. Are new, “traditional” church buildings “a form of mastery” in their mimicry? Do younger generations really eschew traditional building styles in favor of something that “…connects to their gear, their iPads, and their modern lifestyle?” What do you think?