1. Built environment
  2. Architecture & design
April 30, 2015updated 20 Jul 2021 1:09pm

Thames Town: Shanghai's England-themed village

By City Monitor Staff

Chinese cities are no strangers to imitation. Hell, without leaving the Middle Kingdom, you can visit the Eiffel Tower, a Venetian canal and Rockefeller Centre.

Even the humble English village has also received a nod from China’s imitationist architect, complete with mock Tudor frontages, cobbles, squares, and corner shops. Named “Thames Town” (which suggests this is very much a Home Counties village), the settlement is situated about 30km from central Shanghai.

It’s part of Songjiang New City, a new development intended to shoulder some of Shanghai’s enormous population growth. Other Western themed developments have also been built or partially built in Shanghai’s suburbs, including “Holland Town”, and Italian, Canadian and Scandinavian-style developments. 

What’s striking about Thames Town in particular is its remarkable accuracy. This may be because English architects are forever imitating their own mythologised image of the ideal British village: faux-Victorian and faux-Tudor buildings are pretty much as common now in Britain as their actual historical counterparts. In fact, Thames Town wouldn’t look out of place if you dropped it into Poundbury, Prince Charles’ bizarre model town development off the A35. 

Here’s a replica London cab:

Image: Getty.

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Here are some replica buildings, a clocktower and some trees. You can see a Shanghai tower block in the background, too: 

Little Britain. Image: Huai-Chun Hsu via Flickr.

The town and its extremely fake-looking church have become a popular location for wedding photos:

Image: Getty.

Here are some fake Georgian townhouses:

Image: Huai-Chun Hsu via Flickr.

And an admirable attempt to use a British typeface:  


Image: Marc van der Chijs via Flickr. 

Look, there’s even a branch of Costa!

Could be the ideal location for your next holiday, if you get sick of your own cobbled high street and corner shop.

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