Spanish Ghost towns – urban planning via market forces

Much has been written about the ghost towns of China and its now interesting to see that ghost towns in Europe are now popping up in the media such as the recent New York Times article Newly Built Ghost Towns Haunt Banks in Spain. The Chinese ghost town have various reasons for occurring but from what I understand the Spanish and Irish ghost towns were basically due to 2 factors – cheap money and oversupply. The question remains who is to blame? the banks, the market or government. For me its the mostly the governments who allowed planning and growth to get out of control without taking into account the economic and social factors.

Many cities and towns across the world operate autonomously when it comes to urban planning and let the social(more employment) and financial benefits (taxes & rates) get ahead of the long term vision. That being said urban planning also has many other problems due to the slow pace of plan & policy formation along with slow implementation. Urban plans are often very inflexible and take years to change and never keep up with the market. Often many cities don’t have enough residential or commercial or industrial areas at a given time thus sending up prices – in Spain its seems the influx of foreign investors drove up prices even quicker.

So, how do we solve the problem of ghost towns? Now that they are built it will take years to fill them in a continent that has a fast ageing population. Many housing areas will end up totally derelict and be similar to areas of the USA. I think that the best approach is  to leave them for now and hope that the market fills them up, but the banks own the houses and are losing money. Maybe, the banks should turn them over to the government for social housing due to the large costs of maintenance and insurance over the next 10 years. The banks may be better writing the houses off as a loss as this one off cost could outweigh the return/profit that the banks could gain in the long term.

How do we stop ghost towns occurring? A proper planning process and implementation that takes a hard look at the overall process and eliminates any problems before they actually occur is the best solution.

让子弹飞 Let the Bullets Fly took 60 million yuan


让子弹飞 Let the Bullets Fly a period movie starring Yun-Fat Chow, Carina Lau, Xiaogang Feng, You Ge and other well known Chinese Actors opened last week. The movie is a set in the 1920’s about a bandit and the gentry (good guy and bad guy film where the lines blur between who is bad and who is good).  Its a film with action, kung-fu and comedy – a mix that has become very popular in Chinese films.

The movie took 60 million yuan on Saturday beating out Avatar for the record of one day takings [Xinhua]. Chinese film industry constantly grows and changes – more and more Hong Kong, Taiwanese actors are playing parts in Chinese films – this is due to market but also salaries where salaries on the Mainland are becoming larger than that in Hong Kong film industry.

I hope to see it on DVD or IPTV soon.

Shanghai 2014: J Hotel – the highest Hotel in Shanghai

5 star hotels in Shanghai are not in short supply with many local and international hotel brands represented on both sides of the Huangpu River. Today, with interest I read that Jin Jiang Hotel group has taken the lease for the 84th-110th floors of the new mega-tall Shanghai Tower. The Shanghai tower will be one of the tallest buildings in world at over 630 metres. Apparently the new hotel will be called the J Hotel – making it easy to remember and for Chinese and English to say when they arrive in Shanghai.

Usually the high rise hotels have been leased by foreign brands in China such as the Jinmao (Grand Hyatt), SWFC (Park Hyatt), Guangzhou International Finance Center (Four Seasons), Lanko Chongqing (Grand Hyatt). Its interesting to see a Chinese brand take the lease on what will be the tallest tower in China, its obviously going to occur more and more not only in China but across the world.

The Shanghai Tower will be 632 metres  much taller than SWFC and Taipei 101, but not taller than Burj Khalifa or the Tokyo Sky Tree. The tallest building race will rage on but I think the Burj Khalifa will take a long time to beat, the question remains whether this is necessary due to the energy and resources required to build and maintain such a tall building.

I also hear that the J Hotel in the Shanghai Tower will have a lobby on the 101st floor which will be great if they have a restaurant or bar. Currently, I like to go to the bar at 91st floor at Park Hyatt at SWFC with friends and visitors so they can see the city lights – although you have to get there before 8pm usually so you have enough time to enjoy the view before the lights go out on many buildings at around 9-9:30pm.

Frank Gehry’s UTS building – catalyst for modern Sydney Architecture


Frank Gehry’s of new architectural design for the Dr Chau Chak Wing(see above) at the University of Technology in Sydney was recently published on bdonline.co.uk – Gehry unveils his ‘mystery’ $150 million Australian debut. Its been dubbed the Tree-house – Australian’s have a knack for giving nick names to buildings or places such as the Harbour Bridge is know as the Coat hanger.  I can see that the new Gehry building will be interesting addition to the Sydney skyline. Sydney isn’t renowned for its great architecture, obviously there are a few exceptions with the Opera House and a few Harry Siedler buildings – most other buildings including much of the CBD are plain glass monolith’s – I am saying this as a true Melbournian :-p (Sydney vs Melbourne rivalry dates back decades).

I also worry about the plain and mundane architecture that has been presented for the new developments at Barangar0o; They all seem too similar and don’t offer much identity for the place – I feel that the buildings could be anywhere in the world. However, I hope that Gehry’s building it will be implemented with minor alterations to the visions say what you will about his designs but they do have a certain power and create an energy within the space they occupy.  I am hoping the Gehry’s UTS building will have the same catalytic effect on Sydney’s architecture that the RMIT’s buildings of the 1990’s had on Melbourne’s skyline and architecture. The two key buildings where Building 8 by Edmond & Corrigan and Storey Hall by Ashton Raggatt McDougall.

MORE INFORMATION: UTS has setup a project website with the specification, costs and all consultants involved in the project.

*UPDATE* – I have been informed by UTS that DARYL JACKSON ROBIN DYKE is the landscape architect as well as the executive architect for the project.

China’s 12th 5 Year explained

Yesterday I stumbled across this document – China’s 12th Five-Year Plan: How it actually works and what’s in store for the next five years [PDF] by APCOworldwide. It is probably the best document I have found that describes not only the process of the China’s 5 year plans but also gives us some insight into what the Central Government is planning for 2011-2015.  Its a document that covers various areas of Economy, Environment, Development, Health, Energy, etc. APCO also gives some indication of what foreign businesses can expect in the coming 5 years.

I plan to gather and read as much information about the 5 year plans and the growth of China to stay informed, but it is also worth noting that the information should be balanced  against what is happening in China and abroad they may influence how the plan is implemented.

Social Infographic – Facebook vs twitter

Digital Surgeons recently posted an infographic – Facebook vs Twitter. The most interesting data is the differences between Age Group, Education, mobile logins and brand followers. Both sets of users(fb and twitter) have a low percentage of brand following, however it would be interesting to see the data on word of mouth/mentions of brands that occurs on the two services as I am sure it would be higher than the direct engagement(following/liking/fan). Also I query how they measured or defined a login as many people use desktop or browser app programs to login to twitter and facebook.
Infographics are becoming more and more popular, however we are often left asking how the data was collected and the rigorousness of the analysis. The digital surgeons infographic gives great data in instantly referencing form.

(c) digital surgeons

Australia’s National Broadband Network: White Elephant in the making

Debated started back in 2002 on National Broadband Network (NBN) for Australia and gained more traction during the 2007 election. Last year, the Australian government announced it was going to spend $43 billion on implementing the NBN – a fibre optic network with a speed of 100 Mpbs to 93% of population (in other worlds major cities and coastline) with the remaining areas to be serviced by a satellite network.  Recently the government announced the speed of the NBN would be 1 gigabyte.

So why is this network a white elephant?
Mobile Devices

Mobile devices are the fastest growing market and are changing the way we work, consume and produce data & information whether at work, home or play. For this reason alone the NBN should have been mobile technology based – people are changing the way they work and consume data and its not sitting at desk with a 17-24″ screen – its usually on a 3-14″ screen in their client’s office or boardroom or lounge room or shopping mall or farm tractor.  Another reason it should have been Mobile is the location of the data we now access is often through the cloud (gmail, youtube, facebook, games) and therefore people don’t need to be anchored to their desk or workplace to be productive. The cloud saves business money on purchasing network infrastructure, hardware and software. I’ll speak more about the cloud and mobile market trends in future posts.

The NBN is a fixed network that is going to provide huge amount of bandwidth to where people in reality don’t really need it. People use the internet for facebook, watching videos and reading the newspaper/news sites and the odd email – all of which do not require the enormous bandwidth that the NBN will supply. I can understand installing the NBN in Central Business/Activity Districts, Universities or other research facilities but spending $43 billion to install a fixed network to residences seems a large waste of taxpayers money.  Anyone who requires the bandwidth that the NBN will supply will most likely already have it – universities, banks, architects, designers, video production, etc. Overall, the concept of the NBN is too broader a scope and supplies people who really don’t need the bandwidth – I am I saying they don’t deserve the access – no, I am saying if they require it they can pay for it.

$43 billion is a lot of money to spend on one infrastructure project, there are too many other infrastructures that require the money including health and public transport – to areas in dire need of money.

Plain and simply the NBN should have been mobile by the time it is fully implemented be as relevant as a phone box and be one of the the biggest mis-allocation of funds by an Australian government.

IMAGE from Flickr Copyright All rights reserved by sailblue

China property market tightening to continue through 2011

Wang Shi, Chairman of  Vanke (China’a largest property developer) this week stated during the China Investment Summit that the market was tightening due to the Central Government’s tightening campaign and that the tightening had been effective. He also spoke about real estate prices cooling in a market that has been called a ridiculous bubble. Wang believes that the risks of a bubble mean that the tightening will continue into 2011. He also stated that he didn’t think China would get as bad as Dubai and his greatest statement from the Reuters article was “If the bubble bursts, Japan’s past will be China’s present.”

China’s property prices have been rising at an incredible rate over the last 2 years and not just in Shanghai and Beijing, but also in other cities such as Hangzhou, Suzhou, Hong Kong and Hainan Island. Is this merely speculation or demand for housing? I think it is a mixture of both. There is market speculation that all property will rise no matter where it is in China however, there is also demand from first property buyers and those being relocated from farms and inner-city redevelopments.

Owning property is culturally seen as being successful and rich in China with many young people not marrying until the male has purchased property. This is becoming harder and harder in cities such as Shanghai were property continues to rise beyond 20,000CNY per square meter ($USD 3000) with the average in Shanghai announced this week as 21,146CNY per square meter.

I believe that demand and speculation will continue through 2011 in the China property market but will move more to the smaller cities as investors and home buyers see that the big tier-1 cities are just too expensive and look elsewhere for better value. The Central government will continue tightening and will also spur along economy with the ratification of the 12th 5 year plan.