A city full of ghosts

So, I was recently putting together a proposal for a project in Inner Mongolia – one of China’s ‘autonomous regions’, shown in orange on this map.

I stumbled across quite a few articles and galleries about Ordos, one of IM’s main cities.  In fact, due to major coal and natural gas extractions starting in the early 2000s, Ordos is also a very rich city.  It has the second highest GDP per capita in China.

To prepare for, or possibly harness, the city’s economic boom, the government set about expanding the city.  In the new district of Kangabashi, housing, services and infrastucture were quickly constructed to allow for an additional 1.5 million residents.

But right now, Kangabashi is pretty much empty.  Almost every street, every apartment block, every retail centre is devoid of people.


Funnily enough, much of the property has been sold; people have just never moved there to live.  It’s a ghost city that never had real people to begin with.  


This is the main library and the Ordos Museum – still under construction.


In fact, much of the city is still under construction, despite its apparent failure.  Looks like China can outshine the world when it comes to the size of your property bubble too.  I’d love to visit this place … but it’s a long way to go to see nothing …

The same is happening in Zhengzhou New City, where huge public buildings and public spaces (not to mention the ubiquitous grand lake) have never been used.


It’s sad to think that the aspirations and energy of so many people go into making something that is never used.  I hope I am designing for people, not ghosts.


7 Responses to A city full of ghosts

  1. luKe says:

    The alarm bells start ringing when you see things like this.

    • If the alarm bells are ringing and there’s no-one there to hear them, do they make a sound? 🙂
      You never know though … China is one of the few places in the world where this kind of place could end up working out successfully – depending on what your measure of success is, of course …

  2. luKe says:

    Nearly ten years ago I visited the ancient desert “city” of Kashgar in Xinjiang province. A magnificent labyrinth of Turkic mud-brick houses, metre-thick walls, shaded lanes and iconic wind towers for the drying of grapes.
    Since that fortunate visit the brilliant planners at Beijing command central have managed to divert hundreds of thousands of Han Chinese into this relic of the Silk Route and accommodate them in a score of anonymous concrete towers. Similtaneously the planners have bulldozed the ancient mud-brick buildings of Kashgar and their dissident indigenous inhabitants such that Kashgar is now a sanitised shimmer of its once great self and the local people are spirit-broken and outnumbered by the rice-eating mouths from the east. If this monstrous act of social determination can be acheived so quickly then surely other hundreds of thousands of Han from the over-crowded east can also be trucked in to another “autonomous region” to populate (and exert control over) this ghost city of inner Mongolia.

  3. bitbot says:

    What, that giant poo doesn’t tempt you to visit, doctor?

  4. Pingback: Figuring out the last year … « That Look Crayzy!

  5. Master of Architecture says:

    Please stop including the map of Taiwan when you say its a map of China. It’s confusing and misleading.

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