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中国欧式小镇变“鬼城”

2014-01-15    来源:chinadaily    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

China's eerie faux-European ghost towns

当你第一眼看到这个位于北京郊区的小镇时,定会非常惊讶,一条条商业街宛若孩子的调色板,五彩斑斓,而街上的人们,却举止僵硬,如同孩子用蜡笔画画出来的一般。其实,你所看到的大部分都是假景。鸽子,黄色电话亭,站在桥上凝望的水手这些人造景观形成了这个小镇的独特风格。

There’s a town on the outskirts of Beijing that might just be the strangest you’ll ever see. The main street looks as if it was based on a child’s crayon drawing—a riotous palette of pinks, blues, and oranges—and the residents are frighteningly still. In fact, most aren’t even real. Instead, the town features such sights as a pair of petrified pigeons, yellow phone booths, and a statue of a sea dog gazing from a bridge.

Welcome to “Spring Legend,” a mock-Alpine town located in Huairou, a designated green-belt district about 35 miles from Beijing. The town has existed for about five years, but it lacks something fundamental: residents.

Spring Legend has the feel of a dream come true. Entering the town’s German restaurant—outside of which sits a statue of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill enjoying a bronze cigar—tables are set with fine china, wine goblets, silver cutlery, and linen, all neatly laid out for diners who never arrive. Then, a waitress dressed as a Bavarian fräulein appears and inquires how many there will be for lunch.

The town’s motto is “The Beautiful Legend From the Alps” and indeed, compared to the livability problems of Chinese cities, Spring Legend has a pleasant environment. Tables are set with fine china, wine goblets, silver cutlery, and linen, all neatly laid out for diners who never arrive.

“We named it Spring Legend because it’s close to the river and has a small creek running through it,” explains Liu Xinhu, the chairman of Ding Xiu Zhi Ye (Spring Legend Properties). “It’s extremely beautiful in the spring, too.”

The town was conceived back in 2007, towards the end of a period of rapid development in Beijing that led to an increase in pollution and, correspondingly, a renewed interest among city-dwellers in a serene environment.

Spring Legend is empty for one simple reason: During the week, hardly anyone lives there. An estimated 80 percent of the town’s homeowners also have apartments in Beijing, and, according to Liu, the general occupancy rate in Spring Legend is only about 60 to 70 percent. Multiple-home ownership among China’s rich is not uncommon; University at Albany professor Youqin Huang has estimated that 15 percent of urban households in the country own two or more houses.

The nature of property ownership has changed greatly in China. Fifteen years ago, state workers (who then comprised much of the population) were assigned basic accommodation. But today, home ownership has become so important that young men struggle to find a girlfriend if they do not own their own home. Buying a place, however, is difficult: Average salaries in Beijing top out at about 4,500 RMB per month (around $750), while the cost of an apartment in the city center is around 43,000 to 52,000 RMB per square meter.

Why has China gone mad for housing? With strict capital controls and a state-controlled stock exchange that is volatile and risky, the tangible reassurance of evergreen property has made it a “fungible commodity,” in the words of Anne Stevenson-Yang, co-founder of Beijing-based equities analysis firm J Capital Research. She says that homes are usually left empty in order to avoid any depreciation in value.

“Renovation costs are very high, so it makes no sense to rent if you are seeking capital appreciation,” she explains via e-mail. “Remember that apartments here are sold bare, without flooring, ceilings, lighting fixtures or wall tiles. They all need to be installed, adding at least 20 percent to the cost [and] people expect to ... custom fit the unit.”

This means that even in successful towns like Spring Legend—where a unit costs an average of 16,000 RMB (about $2,500) per square meter, roughly a third the cost of a typical apartment in central Beijing—the streets and houses remain lifeless. The owners, says Bianca Bosker, author of Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China , are “dreaming of what they’ll do with the riches they imagine they’ll get when they one day sell them.” The likely answer? Buy more property. However, “Given how many people have hatched the same ‘get rich quick’ real-estate idea, and how many of China’s gated communities stand empty, betting on real estate looks increasingly risky.”

Spring Legend is hardly the only city of its kind. There's also Thames Town, outside Shanghai, which is a $300 million British-style residential complex developed by since-incarcerated Shanghai Communist Party boss Chen Liangyu. And north of Beijing in Hebei Province is Jackson Hole, a wind-swept Wild West replica featuring neighborhoods called Moose Creek, Route 66, and Aspen Land. When developers previewed Jackson Hole in 2003, buyer interest was intense. The homes “sold out in record time,” says Oregon-based designer Allison Smith, who helped create the settlement. Early investors who purchased an “American villa” for around a quarter-million dollars in 2006 have seen their dreams “triple in value,” she estimates.

Jackson Hole bucks the trend: It is a living community, a mix of older families and retirees drawn by what Smith agrees is a serendipitous confluence of factors—co-operative developers, clever marketing, and a great location. But Smith fears there’s a downside to the speculation. “At this point, the Chinese are in such a rush to buy everything, it may not hold its value down the line,” she says. “Jackson Hole doesn’t have that problem; people want to stay there.People want to live there. We've done something positive—it’s not just for the money."

Not every fake European village is so successful. Luodian New Town , also known as North European New Town, is a development in Shanghai’s suburban Baoshan district supposedly based on the historic Swedish town of Sigtuna.According to Bosker, “its foreign architects [Swedish firm Sweco] failed to take into account Chinese lifestyles or customs—specifically, the principles of feng shui.” The developers at first banned any remodeling but, as homes failed to sell, they caved. On visiting, Bosker “found the neighborhood to be a mess of construction, as homebuyers eagerly carved up the houses to fix their feng shui.”

Anting German Town, a failed experiment located about 20 miles outside Shanghai, is another example. “The [Chinese wanted] half-timbered buildings and medieval romance,” Der Spiegel explained in a 2011 postmortem. “But the architecture firm Speer thought it knew better and built a modern German residential quarter [where] nobody wants to live.” The truth, as the article admits, is more complicated than just aesthetics—the town lacked the life support of proper infrastructure.

“‘Empty towns’ and ‘ghost towns’ attract a lot of public attention, and that has a lot to do with the fact that these are local government initiatives and investments,” says Pan Yingli, a professor of finance at the Research Center for Modern Finance at Shanghai Jiaotong University.

With taxes collected centrally and then redistributed to local governments, land has become the principle source of income for provincial officials, who normally can expect a redistribution of only 50 percent of fiscal revenue after paying 85 percent of the municipal purse, according to Pan. Grandiose land projects, thus, are a ripe moneymaking vehicle for officials. German houses are too dark-colored,” Liu argues. “They look depressing.”

“This creates bubbles, because the prosperity of properties and cities ultimately comes from the accumulation of people, but developing real estate alone doesn’t create jobs—so [these new towns] don’t attract laborers or their families. As a result, only the land per se is ‘urbanized,’ and so become the ‘ghost towns’ that we see.”

As with many real-estate projects, the key to avoiding disaster relies on several things all going the developers’ way: Connections must be well-maintained, oversight should ideally be avoided, local power structures must be preserved, and the infrastructure needed to breathe life into a remote, self-contained development has to be completed on time.

In the case of Anting, the problem seems to be more of an absence of the latter. A pleasant conurbation of ponds, green space, and wide boulevards, there is nothing about Anting that wouldn’t necessarily appeal to Chinese buyers—a Shanghai city planner praised the concept as aesthetic and “well thought through”—but “the project failed because … the district is cut off and surrounded by industrial districts and wasteland.” It was like a “foreign body,” the city planner told Der Spiegel.

To China’s more bearish observers, vacant cities are prima facie evidence of the country’s overcapacity problem, with Ordos, a “ghost town” in Inner Mongolia, being the most famous example. But some economists reject this narrow interpretation.

“It’s possible the ‘ghost town’ problem is exaggerated. China is a big country; different local governments have different governing styles and their leaders have different working abilities,” says Pan Yingli. “Local governments borrow a lot of money [to build these towns] but [these towns don’t create] the industries or population to produce enough fiscal income to pay them off.These debts become bad loans and add to the risks for the banks. And the banks’ solution to this is to extend maturities—in other words, to lend them more money to pay off their old debts.”

Stevenson-Yang attributes the faux-architecture phenomenon partly to “a lack of commercial drivers behind development … planners just pluck ideas from magazines.” It’s a description that Spring Legend’s Liu would probably dispute. The decision to build Spring Legend in its unique style was carefully considered, he says, rather than a knee-jerk instinct to copy other successful copycats.

The original concept aimed to imitate ancient Chinese village designs, but thefeng shui didn’t quite fit. “[It] required too much space and needed to be built along a river,” Liu says. “We wanted to make use of the scenery and mountainous location and make the property blend in naturally.” (“Bad feng shui can tank a neighborhood’s prospects,” warns Bosker.)

Hence the Alpine approach. The mix of styles and scenery, Liu says, was intentional. In China, “European architecture is largely symbolized,” he observes. (This is especially true in historic cities like Tianjin, where Liu observed that “you see a lot of carriages being pulled by horses [and] that sort of thing”).

The developers sent a team of around a dozen people to Europe, where they spent time in villages and towns. Their findings encouraged focus on “lifestyle” rather than authenticity, with Liu trumpeting “a relaxed style of living environment … the idyllic, rather than the aristocratic side of Europe.” One of the few genuine shops was a small supermarket, selling typical, low-end domestic fare—duck necks, vacuum-packed chicken feet.


In Spring Legend, for example, you’ll encounter plenty of benches—a piece of street furniture practically never encountered in Chinese cities—because “We wanted to encourage people to go out more.… [In China], people tend to stay in; in Europe, it’s different,” says Liu. But places to spend money are curiously absent—almost all the stores and bars are artificial. The Toy Shop, for example, has photographs of goodies plastered into its window, but peering through a broken pane reveals a concrete husk littered with debris—rubble, a bicycle, a workman’s leftover lunch.

Businesses take time to prosper, argues Liu: “We didn’t sell the storefronts to anyone yet, because we’re afraid once we do so, it will be out of our control and low-end shops will pervade, which is not what we want.” He may have a point.One of the few genuine shops was a small supermarket, selling typical, low-end domestic fare—duck necks, vacuum-packed chicken feet, potato chips, spicy tofu, beer, and frozen fish balls; items that probably don’t fit Liu’s ‘brand.’

While the shops may not sell foie gras and fine Scotch yet, there are nods to different parts of high European culture all around, even though Europeans themselves are not permitted to purchase any of these properties. According to the town website, the large, swanky but deserted Elischer restaurant pays tribute to the Austrian town where Emperor Franz Joseph is supposed to have met Princess Sisi—in fact, the real town is called Bad Ischl . But that doesn’t matter: The Spring Legend Holiday Hotel finally opened its doors two months ago to an impatient public and purports to be the “First Princess Sissy-themed [sic] hotel in Beijing”—an unproven (but perfectly credible) claim.

This unedited amalgam of different traditions and countries is deliberate, Liu explains: For mainlanders, at least, “it’s enough to get their general approval of the style. They don’t need the absolutely authentic experience.” Indeed, the European dwellings of Spring Legend may boast a range of primary colors, but something they don’t have is one that looks definitively European. That’s because the real thing can come with apparent drawbacks. “Well, German houses are too dark-colored,” Liu argues. “They look depressing.”

Indeed, as China’s confidence grows, the country might sour on foreign styles altogether. “Already, new developments are cropping up with traditional Chinese architecture as their theme,” Bosker observes. “We might have reason to worry when China stops copying our architecture altogether.”(ChinaDaily)

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欢迎来到怀柔的“顶秀美泉小镇”,这座离北京市区三十公里左右的欧式小镇,建成已经五年,却缺少了一个商业住宅区最基本的构成要素:居民。

踏进顶秀美泉小镇,让人仿佛置身梦中,德式餐厅的门口,放置着一尊正在抽烟的英国首相丘吉尔的铜质雕像。餐厅里的桌子上整齐的摆放着精美的瓷器和银质餐具,似乎等待着那些永远也不会光临的客人。一位年轻的身穿巴伐利亚服装的服务员走上前来询问就餐的客人数。

顶秀美泉小镇的口号是“来自阿尔卑斯的美丽传说”。事实上,和中国很多城市的居住环境比,顶秀美泉小镇的环境的确令人心旷神怡。

顶秀置业总经理刘新虎说,“我们叫它“顶秀美泉小镇”是因为它紧邻雁西河畔,内有小溪流水。春天的时候非常的美。“

小镇是2007年开始建造的,那时北京刚刚经历了一段迅速发展时期,人口猛增。从而使很多北京市民萌发了远离喧嚣的城市,寻求安静居所的念头。

在他看来,房子空置的主要原因是因为平时大家都上班,因此很少有人来居住,他估计说,顶秀美泉小镇的80%的户主在市区也有房。再加上小镇的入住率总共也就百分之六七十。在中国,有钱人拥有多套房的现象并不少见。据奥尔巴尼大学教授黄友琴估计,中国有13%的城市家庭至少拥有两套房。

中国的房地产本质已经发生了极大的变化。十五年前,城市人口主要由国企工人构成,住房由国家统一安排分配。现在的年轻人若没有房子,连对象都难找,然而,买房却并不容易,北京人均月工资不超过4500元(折合$750)。而北京市区房价均价却在每平方43000元到52000元之间。

为什么中国房地产如此火爆?用北京美奇金投资咨询有限公司的合伙创始人杨思安话来说是因为在中国,政府对资金调控极其严格,而炒股又有很大的风险性。这样一来,房子就成了具有保障性的投资商品。她认为房子空置的主要原因是为了避免贬值。

她在电子邮件中做了这样的解释,“重新装修花费太大,所以你想要保值,外租就没有什么意义了。这里出售的商品房都是没有地板,天花板,灯具及墙砖的毛胚房,如果装修,成本至少要增加20%.人们还是希望按照自己的意愿装修。”

这就意味着在像丁秀美泉这样比较成功的楼盘,即使每套房的售价仅为市区房价的三分,既16000元每平方米,却依然鲜有人住。《原味复制——当代中国的建筑模仿》的作者比安斯·博斯克说,这些户主们梦想着有天把手中的房子抛掉就可以发家致富。真的是这样吗?在中国,如果越来越多的人认为炒房可以快速致富。购买的房子越多,房子的空置率就越高。房地产投资的风险也会越来越大。

在中国,像顶秀美泉这样空置的商业住宅区并非个例。与它类似的还有由现已身陷囹圄的前上海市委书记陈良宇花费3亿美元打造的英式泰晤士小镇住宅区,河北的杰克森庄园,原版复制的美式慕斯溪,66号公路,阿斯彭度假庄园等等。2003年,杰克森庄园一开盘,就吸引了众多购房者。来自美国俄勒冈的艾莉森.史密斯是该楼盘的方案设计人,她说该楼盘的销售“创造了历史记录”。据她估计,2006年以200万人民币购买的在这里购买的“美式别墅”,现在其价值已经涨了三倍。

杰克森度假山是一个逆潮流增长的案例:它是一个充满生机的社区,史密斯认为它的成功是由几个因素综合构成的。如开发商鼎的力合作,独特场营销手段及优越的地理位置等,从而能够吸引众多的老年家庭及退休家庭。但史密斯也担心这种投资方式已经在走下坡路了。“这时候中国人还热衷于到处买房,最后也许就没办法保值了。杰克森庄园不用担心出现什么问题,因为人们都愿意住在那里。我们为此也做了诸多努力——不仅仅是为了赚钱。"

不是每个仿欧式商业住宅区都如此幸运。位于上海宝山区的罗店新镇,(亦被称作北欧新镇),据说是仿照瑞典的历史古镇锡格蒂娜建造的。博斯克说“瑞典建筑设计公司Sweco的建筑师在设计时没有考虑到中国人生活习性,尤其是中国的风水问题。”开发商当时不赞同重新改造,但是当房子销售不景气的时候,他们又进行改建。博斯克去参观该楼盘的时候看到“购房者为了让房子符合风水,对房子进行重新改造,社区里因为基建搞得一团糟。”

距离上海市区20英里的安亭德式小镇,也是一个失败的案例。2011年德国《明镜》杂志对此案例的失败原因的解释是“中国人想要的是那种半木质的,具有中世纪的浪漫色彩的建筑风格。而Speer建筑设计公司自认为他们更懂得设计,于是就设计了一座现代的德式住宅区(却根本没人愿意住)。文章认为该案例失败,并不仅仅只是审美角度不同的原因,真正的原因在于这个小区缺乏合理的基础生活设施。

上海交大当代金融研究中心的金融学教授潘英丽说,“‘空城’‘鬼城’引起了人们的广泛关注。其主要原因还是跟地方政府的决策和投资有关。”

潘英丽说财政税收统一上交国家后,国家再重新将税收分配至各地方政府,分配的资金其中85%要用于政府日常采购,地方政府可以支配的仅是剩余部分中的50%,因此土地就成了各地政府基本的财政收入来源。这样一来,大型的土地开发项目就成了政府的摇钱树。

顶秀置业总经理刘新虎说,“德式的房子颜色太暗沉,给人一种压抑的感觉。房地产产生泡沫的原因是因为房地产和城市的兴盛最终是由人口积累推动的,而单独的发房地产,就无法产生就业机会,因此上就无法吸引就业者及其家庭。最终的结果就是,只有土地本身被‘都市化’。也就成了现在的‘空城’,‘鬼城’。”

对于房产开发商来说,避开灾难的重要因素包括以下几点:保持交通畅通,管理到位,供电设施齐全,偏远楼盘基本生活设施要完备。及时完善社区自给设施。

从“安亭”案例来看,其失败的主要原因并不在于该社区的设施问题。这个大型的社区里小桥流水,绿树成荫,到处都令人赏心悦目,对于中国的购房者来说,安亭小镇具有绝对的吸引力。一位上海城市规划人员对《明镜》记者说安亭就像一幅绝美的风景画。其设计“是经过深思熟虑的”,——但是“该项目却是失败的,原因在于,它孤立于市区之外,周围都是工业区和荒地。” 看上去就像一个格格不入的“异物”。

中国一些业内人士分析认为,城市房产空置基本反映出中国房产过剩。在这点上,鄂尔多斯”鬼城“就是一个典型。但是,有些经济学家认为这种看法过于狭隘。

潘英丽说,“人们对于‘鬼城’的说法有些夸大,中国是个大国,各地方政府的管理方式皆不相同,领导的工作能力也有高低差异。地方政府举债造城,但是并没有制造相应的就业机会来增加人口。从而无法获得相应的投资回报来偿还债务,而银行采用延期还贷的方法——换句话说,就是地方政府借新债还旧债。"

杨思安认为这种全盘复制西方建筑的现象的部分原因在于房产开发缺乏商业动力……规划者只是对杂志上的一些理念断章取义。" 顶秀置业的刘新虎却并不同意这个说法。丁秀美泉独特设计风格是经过深思虑的。绝不是草率的盲目仿制品。

刘新虎说,最初他们是想设计一种古代的中式村落,但是这个地方的风水不适合。”中国传统风水对于空间位置都非常讲究,一般都要依水而建。我们想充分利用周边地貌和景致。使居所更好的融入自然。

(博斯克提醒说“ 风水不好,社区的前途就不会兴旺。”)

刘新虎说这种将习俗与风景结合的阿尔比斯风格,是有意设计的。在中国,“欧式建筑是有极大象征意义的,”(对于一些历史古城的确如此,比如在天津你就能看见象征着天津古老历史的马拉车铜像之类的东西。)

刘新虎说丁秀美泉的开发商曾经派了一个十多个人的设计组到欧洲各国考察,去过很多乡村小镇后,他们认为与“原汁原味的复制”相比,“适应生活习俗”更为重要,人们想要的是悠闲的田园式的生活,而不是那种欧洲式的贵族风范。"

顶秀美泉小镇,真正的店铺寥寥无几,有一家小超市,出售一些常见的生活品——如鸭脖,真空包装的鸡腿等。

你可以看见街道上摆放着很多装饰用的长凳。在中国别的城市是少见的。刘新虎说,“我们这样做,是希望人们多出来走走……在中国,人们都爱呆在家里,而在欧洲,情况就不一样了。” 但是,这里连个想花钱的地方都没有——几乎所有的商店和酒吧都是人造假景。玩具店里面的橱窗上贴着商品画册,但透过破了的窗户向里看,却只有灰尘覆盖的水泥地上,堆积着沙子,还有一辆自行车和工人吃剩的午餐。

对此刘新华解释说,“生意总是要随着时间才能慢慢好起来的。我们前面的一排店铺一间都没有对外销售,是因为我们担心店铺销售出去,我们就无法控制,从而造成到处都是销售低档次货品的商铺。这是我们不希望出现的状况。”他的说法也是有道理的。为数不多的几家店,其中就有一家小超市卖一些鸭脖,正空包装鸡腿,薯片,辣豆腐,啤酒,冰冻鱼丸之类的低档次的日用饮食。这些都不大符合他的“品牌理念”。

即使顶秀美泉的房子没有一间是卖给欧洲人的,也没有一家商铺卖鹅肝或鲜美的威士忌酒之类的东西,但是这里的确到处体现了各种欧洲优雅的文化风情。顶秀美泉的伊舍尔酒店宽敞豪华,却生意惨淡。据其网页介绍说,该酒店原型位于一个于奥地利小镇,据说是奥地利王子佛兰茨.约瑟夫邂逅茜茜公主的地方。事实上他们真正邂逅的地方是一个叫Bad Ischi的小镇。但这点无关紧要。两个月前,公众期盼已久的“首家茜茜公主主题度假酒店”在顶秀美泉欧式风情商业街区正式开门迎客。(这一冠名虽然无法证实其真实性,但还是有些名至实归的感觉)

刘新虎说,他们特意设计了这种融各种国家传统风情于一体的建筑风格,是因为它至少在中国大陆得到了普遍认可。在丁秀美泉,户主们需要的不是体会原汁原味的欧式生活,而是感受这种欧式居所的原有色彩。但不能接受完全欧式化的东西,因为完全真实的建筑到了中国显而易见是有缺陷的。“就像德式的房子,颜色太暗,会产生一种压抑的感觉。"

的确,对于越来越自信的中国人来说,也许会逐渐厌倦这些完全复制的欧式风格。博斯克说,“现在一些新开发的楼盘的设计都反映出传统的中国风格。所以担心中国人终有一天完全停止复制我们的建筑,也是不无道理的。”


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