If You Build It, They Won't Come: Abandoned Architectural Marvels in China's Largest Ghost Town

  • 2016-04-13
  • CNN

(CNN) Once intended to accommodate over one million residents, the new town of Kangbashi in northern China is today home to just one-tenth of its projected population.

In the early 2000s, Chinese government officials poured over $1 billion into the development of the city, several miles south of Ordos in Inner Mongolia. The result, according to French photographer Raphael Olivier, is a "very beautiful city, full of contradictions."

Drawn to the "post-apocalyptic" feel generated by the juxtaposition of vacant, large-scale buildings and the surrounding desert, Olivier documented the ghost town and its partially complete architectural marvels.

A failed utopia

Entitled "A Failed Utopia" his stunning -- if oddly surreal -- series of images focus on the city's ambitious developments, rather than its "empty streets."

"I was just keen to take my time, and walk through different districts, and almost in a catalogue way, find as many interesting structures as possible," he says of covering parts of the 355-square-kilometer (137 square mile) sprawl.

"There's the super-modern edgy Ordos Museum [by MAD Architects], the more boring, modern Chinese residential blocks, unfinished projects from Ordos 100 [a project by Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to invite 100 architects from 27 countries to design for Ordos] as well as the influence of Soviet-style architecture," explains Olivier.