24 November 2010

There beneath the blue suburban skies

华西 Huaxi Tourism
400 mq villas. Photo by IES Global

The annual personal income in the chinese town of Huaxi is roughly 25 times the average earnings in the country, thus being its richest town. Huaxi lies in the province of Guizhou, roughly between Nanjing and Shanghai: founded in 1961 as a rural village it counts nowadays more than 300.00 inhabitants and 80 industries, which started to flourish from mid 1980s onwards, mainly dealing with steel, metal and textile production.

Map of Huaxi: in blue industries

If you decided to live there, you would have, apart from the high monthly income, your own villa (400 mq), car(s), medical insurance and cooking oil. But you would work 7 days a week, marry someone from Huaxi, and if you ever wanted to move, you would lose everything. It is possible to travel, but copies of the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Freedom, Arc de Triophe and the Chinese Wall seem to discourage that...

View from 24th floor of 74 storey tall Huaxi Skyscraper under construction
Pagoda-offices. Image by Bert van Dijk

This mix of socialism and capitalism works like this: inhabitants are partners of a holding, the Jiangsu Huaxi Jituan Gonsi, quoted on the stock exchange. The Chinese channel in English CRI realized the following video about Huaxi.

The idyll of American suburban life (more and more popular in the country), apart from being some 50 years late, is paid at a high price by the residents, who by the way seem happy about their life-styles and satisfied with the 2 million tourists visiting the town (pretending city) every year. In the meantime we can see renderings of the new high-rise core by MAD Architects.

华西 Huaxi Villas
Suburban Chinese life. Photo by IES Global

Arc de Triomphe in World Park Huaxi
Arc de Triomphe in Huaxi's World Park. Image by Bert van Dijk

14 November 2010

Vagabonds abroad: European 1930s travelogue

How does Europe look like in the 1930s to an American couple? Here a home-made film about the European tour of "Bill and I": this travelogue, as Giuliana Bruno might call it, is seen from the perspective of a woman and gives a very good amateurial picture, free from propaganda or commercial intentions.

The recording is titled "Vagabonds abroad. A pictorial narrative of my European travels" and it is clear from the very beginning that we will see the travel-journal of a woman, while the male partner is relegated to a minor role. They head towards Europe (probably from New-York) on March 21st (likely 1936, since we see the Hindenburg Zeppelin flying, later on in the movie).

They visit Lisboa, Gibraltar, Algiers, Palermo, Napoli, Capri, Monaco, Geneva, Wengen, Lucerne, Kölln, Brussels, Wien, Budapest, Salzburg, Münich and Berlin: while the Mediterranean cities hold a typical degree of picturesqueness and well-established sightseeing and panorama views (the bay of Napoli is in this respect paradigmatic), towards the end of the journey and traveling north the written comments rarefy and we have the impression that "Bill and I" are baffled by the Nazi troops marching in front of the Brandenburger Tor.