When you hear of a city referred to as a ‘ghost town’ you might imagine an old town suffered some catastrophic event or a fictional place of unfortunate alternative future with no people or any sign of life. Wouldn’t be a surprise, that the last thing you choose is a place built in a developed country in its second wealthiest region and you’ll be right. The only chance to choose such place becomes real when we talk about Ordos Kangbashi, China, one of the twelve subdivisions of Inner Mongolia, mistakenly claimed as a “ghost town”.

Ordos Kangbashi has been an object of an ongoing stream of criticism from thousands international media sources. It having been called a modern ghost town, a stillborn city, and even a failed utopia. Media sources called it “a city built for nobody out in the middle of a desert” and maybe someone can find this story fascinating and chilling, but it’s simply not true. The majority of this coverage has posited in the time of Chinese financial crisis to catch the reader’s eye.

Nevertheless, Ordos continues break the trends of ghost cities, and in a video, which is also an amazing artwork made by a group of skateboarders back in 2013, we can find Ordos in all its glory of winds, which walk freely between the walls of futuristic architecture. These young people saw the potential of this city in terms of spots. So they decided to go on a skate trip and be the first ones to skate such a surreal place. The film starts with a shot of guys, who steer across the dunes of vast Ordos desert with their boards grabbed strong in hands. Ordos’ dramatic city architecture reveals to the viewer with a sudden shot change.

From this moment, the skateboarders take an advantage of the varied landscape made by a human being. The modern, elegant and flowing terrain of the city amazes. We can see the time and effort invested into the development of the region behind these huge spaces and futuristic designs. The only vehicle, which shows up next shot, is a public bus and the only person there appears to be a solitary policeman. Probably you wouldn’t find someone else. But won’t forget that It can be just a shooting work, and it’s obvious that skateboarders prefer open spaces with no people around.

True or False

It’s hard to make a right idea of something without seeing with your own eyes. At first sight Ordos is different from typical abandoned city, at least because we can find official information that it is planned as a progressive place with modern architecture and comforting family environment. The city exists from 2001, when $585 billion was pumped into the brand new development. Ordos is planned as a part of scheme to boost China’s economy in time of mining boomtown building of new districts on a long-term timeline in a period. Of course, at the moment of building it has just 20-30,000 residents, but the city already looks like one of the most modern cities in the world with its bold huge scale architecture.

In fact, China currently has plenty of such “ghost towns.”

Coal Hopes

What was the reason to plump so much money into the city? The area of Ordos is rich in natural resources, from textiles to coal mining, petrochemicals and more. But coal is the city’s biggest asset, which now became the biggest problem for its economy. After extensive media coverage of China’s problems with smog, the country is attempting to shift away from its reliance on coal and reduce consumption. The China Coal Research Institute stated that the ‘golden decade for coal is over,’ and forecasts for Ordos are not encouraging.

Anyway, the Chinese government remains optimistic about the city’s success, so they move some of the best local schools there to attract families. Another problem is that nearly all of the properties have been purchased by investors hoping for a large return, but the prices have decreased significantly since 2006. However, whilst the property’s prices get down, the city hardly pledge to stay empty in the country with such high population density.

Two Sides of Emptiness

Modern ghost city seems a paradise for skateboarders. “There are so many huge blocks of flats with nobody living in them and the big main roads will never have more than 3 or 4 vehicles in sight at one time” says pro Korahn Gayle.  Smooth urban surfaces and nobody around, can the skateboarder’s reality be better? He also said, that even if everything looks great to skate, after jumping on a rail a few times it seems to start breaking. “The marble seems weak and the metal bends with ease. I don’t think that the city will be able to take the wear and tear of everyday living when it is fully populated” Korahn Gayle added.

There is another, less positive side to this emptiness. The filmmaker behind ‘Ordos’ Charles Lanceplain said, that “There was a quite dystopian feeling to Ordos. It’s barren, with very few people living there and the few I did talk to had pessimistic views about the place”. The majority of the people live a few blocks and the rest is empty. “We would spend hours skating and not seeing anyone, it really felt like the whole city was ours. It was quite a creepy but exhilarating feeling at the same time.” When the city in a current “ghost mode” (which is actually a “building mode”), skateboarders and others can come for unique experience and watch beautiful architecture in it’s original state of upcoming urbanisation.

“You feel like you actually own the city,” Charles Lanceplain said.

Now Ordos stands as a symbol of the nation’s wealth, aided by elaborate statues and giant memorials that celebrate Chinese history, culture and power. Such places as Ordos always evoke the sense of mystery and intrigue for strangers. However, usually the mystery is in the expectation of abandoned houses and old-fashioned broken buildings. So being in a large brand new and empty city gives off sad vibes of world urbanisation and unconsciously provokes ironic thoughts of human’s power.

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