Shanghai’s European Suburbs

Chinese urban planners are building new towns with a foreign flair, each mimicking architecture from Europe’s storied cities

(Rémi Ferrand)

Thames Town

Thames Town Shanghai
(Tong Lam)

Thames Town’s Tudor houses sit mostly empty, partly because of housing prices (the least expensive home here is six million yuan or US $880,000), partly because the town is an hour from downtown Shanghai, and partly because the homes are not what the Chinese want, says Harry den Hartog, an urban planner. “In China, because of increasing differences between the poor and the rich, the rich do not want to live on the ground floor because they are afraid of burglaries,” he says. “The inhabited parts of Thames Town have transformed into gated enclaves, which is certainly not European.” Den Hartog edited a book about the rapid urbanization of the countryside around Shanghai, in which a chapter on the “one city, nine towns” project is included.


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