China’s ghost city: Kangbashi, Ordos full of brand new, empty buildings

An unfinished building which is part of the Ordos 100 project. Picture: Raphael Olivier
Debra Killaleanews.com.au@DebKillalea
IT WAS created and hailed as a bustling city utopia with glistening buildings and state-of-the-art facilities.
But more than a decade after the northern Chinese city of Kangbashi, Ordos, was built and open for people to move in, it remains mostly vacant.
When the Chinese Government built the inner-Mongolian town of Kangbashi, a district of Ordos, it estimated it could accommodate well over a million people.
However, just 100,000 or so moved in, which today results in an urban ghost city, an “urban failure” considering its billion-dollar construction cost.
Ordos Grand Theatre is largely empty. Picture: Raphael Olivier
Ordos Grand Theatre is largely empty. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
Mr Olivier said he was eerily captivated by the city’s wide yet seemingly abandoned streets. Picture: Raphael Olivier
Mr Olivier said he was eerily captivated by the city’s wide yet seemingly abandoned streets. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
Shanghai-based photographer Raphael Olivier wanted to see what the fuss was about after hearing reports about China’s ghost cities over the years.
Olivier photographed Kangbashi, a subdivision of Ordos and the sprawling 355 sqm city itself as part of his Failed Utopia series.
He told news.com.au his images focused on the city’s big developments, rather than its “empty streets.”
A man plays basketball outside Ordos Library. Picture: Raphael Olivier
A man plays basketball outside Ordos Library. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
Ordos, city utopia or urban failure? Picture: Raphael Olivier
Ordos, city utopia or urban failure? Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
The French photographer found the entire city was intriguing, slightly eerie yet beautiful in parts — a far cry from the bustling, busy city he currently called home.
Mr Olivier said while the city did have people, it appeared largely empty and on first appearances its buildings and facilities appeared neat.
But on closer inspection he found many were starting to crumble and were showing the effects of being built in a hurry and corners were cut.
A mosque in Ordos, China. Picture: Raphael Olivier
A mosque in Ordos, China. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
Ordos has Olympic inspired facilities. Picture: Raphael Olivier
Ordos has Olympic inspired facilities. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
“There is a very strong misconception in the western media that Ordos is a ghost city, but there are people living here,” he told news.com.au.
“And while we may see it as urban failure the Chinese see it as development.
Every city needs gigantic skyscrapers, right? Picture: Raphael Olivier
Every city needs gigantic skyscrapers, right? Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
“Ordos is spectacularly interesting because it has these wide streets that are just empty.”
He said the city had a “post-apocalyptic” feel which was largely down to the large amounts of vacant, and half-finished buildings contrasted against the surrounding desert.
Ordos Museum, which Mr Olivier said was pretty pathetic inside. Picture: Raphael Olivier
Ordos Museum, which Mr Olivier said was pretty pathetic inside. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
Many houses across the sprawling city are empty. Picture: Raphael Olivier
Many houses across the sprawling city are empty. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
Mr Olivier said the fact that the city was so underpopulated and was well below the intended government target meant it could be seen as a complete urban failure.
Mr Olivier, who visited the Ordos museum, said it was a classic example of how buildings were built and maintained across the entire city.
More abandoned buildings in the Ordos 100 project. Picture: Raphael Olivier
More abandoned buildings in the Ordos 100 project. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
The streets of Ordos contrast sharply with other busier Chinese cities. Picture: Raphael Olivier
The streets of Ordos contrast sharply with other busier Chinese cities. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
“The buildings are starting to fall apart because everything was built so quickly,” he said.
“They built the city so fast with cheap materials and short cuts were taken.
“The buildings are designed well but the execution of the buildings themselves is low end.
The Chinese Government had high hopes for Ordos. Picture: Raphael Olivier
The Chinese Government had high hopes for Ordos. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
“Many of these buildings were built 20 years ago and they’re already starting to fall apart.”
Mr Olivier said the Ordos Museum, which looked beautiful on the outside but falling apart or empty on the inside, was symbolic of the entire city.
Kangbashi, Ordos, was designed to be a shining light for China. Picture: Raphael Olivier
Kangbashi, Ordos, was designed to be a shining light for China. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
“When I visited there was only a plastic dinosaur and some weird Christmas tree and a chocolate bar stand,” he said.
“It was super pathetic really.
‘The ceiling was rotting, and pieces of plaster were falling off.”
Ordos Stadium could fit 35,000 people, that’s a third of the city’s current population. Picture: Raphael Olivier
Ordos Stadium could fit 35,000 people, that’s a third of the city’s current population. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
The photographer who runs his own agency in Shanghai, said he has always had a keen interest in urban development and Asia was especially interesting.
He is also planning a photography trip to Pyonyang, North Korea, in July to capture its own unique urban development.
The buildings in Ordos may look stunning, but they are already starting to crumble. Picture: Raphael Olivier
The buildings in Ordos may look stunning, but they are already starting to crumble. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
KANGBASHI NEW AREA, ORDOS
Known as the world’s “largest ghost city”, developers began work on the new urban centre of Kangbashi just outside of the existing city of Ordos in 2003.
The Mongolian city was meant to be the shining light of China and a massive symbol of wealth and progression. But things didn’t quite go to plan.
Ordos is having a very slow population growth. Picture: Raphael Olivier
Ordos is having a very slow population growth. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
City authorities were struck by a range of problems such as investors pulling out a series of unpaid loans.
The cost of living was also high so the government began offering incentives for people to move there or in some cases even relocated schools and facilities.
While indicators appear to show the population is increasing it remains far off the intended government target.
The city is full of sculptures and buildings but few people in certain parts. Picture: Raphael Olivier
The city is full of sculptures and buildings but few people in certain parts. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied
Ordos horse racing track. Picture: Raphael Olivier
Ordos horse racing track. Picture: Raphael OlivierSource:Supplied


Share on Google Plus

Contact Us:

Any body may contact us via comment for any quiry. We will respond in earlier moments.