We have seen countless reports on China’s ghost towns over the past several years. Often described as planning failures, it remains to be seen if the millions of square metres will be filled up and these now desolate places will become bustling cities as a result of the rapid urbanisation that the country is undergoing. However it may turn out, the current sights are fascinating and often uncanny.
Artist/photographer Andi Schmied chose one of these Chinese new towns as the subject for a project that goes beyond merely capturing a desolate townscape. Jing Jin City, 100 miles from Beijing, is a luxury resort town consisting of some 4000 villas, a Hyatt Regency resort spa and amenities such as a golf course and a horse racing track. It is not really a ghost town, however, since it is partially populated, but many of the villas remain in various states of completion.
The city is mainly inhabited by gardeners and guards, both of whom are engaged in the task of trying to keep up Jing Jin City’s appearances by holding off nature and other unwanted elements. At the day’s end, their role shifts from workers to residents of the town. As Schmied explains: “they are sleeping in the villas that they are employed to guard, making structures out of unused materials, improvising furniture and modifying the interiors on a daily basis. Inside double-height living rooms, guards build sculptures out of window panes. During winter they break through the ice to go fishing on the frozen river that separates the golf course from the largest villas.” ….