Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jingjin Designer Outlets replicates an Italian village

Replica: A bridge over a canal that flows through the centre of Florentia Village in Wuqing, on the outskirts of the city of Tianjin.
by Jane F. Ragavan - the star online

IT’S BEEN said that you can get everything made in China. Smartphones, handbags and even cars have been copied and manufactured in bulk for sale around the world.

But at the Jingjin Designer Outlets near Beijing, the luxury goods sold are authentic. The village which houses the houses, however, is a facsimile.

China has constructed a 5.7ha copy of an Italian city that boasts colonnades and piazzas. It even has its own faux Colosseum and Grand Canal with gondolas that glide under an arched bridge.
The Florentia Village, which houses the Jingjin Designer Outlets, is modelled after the Chic Outlet Shopping Villages in Europe. It was constructed at an estimated cost of US$220mil (RM702mil) on a former corn field in Wuqing, a fast-growing town between Beijing and Tianjin.

There are nearly 200 of the most famous Italian luxury brands and international and Chinese fashion premium brands at Jingjin, which opened in June last year.

But unlike those luxury shopping villages in Europe which mostly employ architecture unique to the region’s cultural and artistic heritage, and are located in scenic and culturally interesting areas that provide a natural itinerary for tourists, the designers of Florentia decided to forgo features such as curved roofs and stone dragons for porticoes and lancet arches.

Florentia Village, designed by Italian engineering, architectural and environmental firm Hydea, is also popular as the backdrop for wedding photos.

This is not the first time China has replicated a European town.

Besides Little Italy in Wuqing, there’s German Town Anting with its Bauhaus architecture and statues of Goethe and Schiller, Chengdu British Town modelled after Dorchester in England, Thames Town with a 66m-tall church that bears a striking resemblance to a cathedral in Bristol, as well as mini versions of Barcelona and Nordic Town. Venetian-style canals also feature in Pujiang, a suburb of Shanghai.

The Austrian mountain town of Hallstatt, a Unesco World Heritage Site, has been recreated – including its famous lake – in the southern province of Guangdong.

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