See Stunning Photos of Ordos, China’s Creepy Modern Ghost Town

The city's streets await a population that never showed up.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia. Photo: Raphael Olivier.
Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.
Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia. Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Photographs of the Chinese city of Ordos reveal a stunning landscape: a futuristic city that languishes almost totally abandoned, as if its population had been abruptly raptured.

The images, taken by Shanghai-based photographer Raphael Olivier and shared at Creative Boom, depict a strange modern ghost town, a would-be utopia rapidly constructed for a population of one million that failed to materialize.

The city, in the Inner Mongolia region, takes its name from ordo, the Mongolian word for crowd and the root for the English word “horde.” But while the city was constructed under the old “if you build it, they will come” motto, the teeming masses have never made their way to Ordos.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

The city includes dormant schools, sports complexes, hospitals, convention centers, and other major facilities, all completed between 2005 and 2010. The Chinese building boom has seen many new cities become overnight metropolises, but Ordos City failed to replicate that success.

“The city is now a surreal landscape of empty streets, decaying monuments, abandoned buildings and half-finished housing projects,” writes Olivier. “It is more than anywhere the symbol of the Chinese Dream with all its challenges and contradictions, an Orwellian vision of a bright future caught up by a less flamboyant reality.”

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia, the Ordos Museum.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia, the Ordos Museum.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

The city’s most fantastical structures include the Ordos Museum, designed by China’s MAD Archictects, which resembles a tiled metal blob overlooking the Gobi Desert.

Like the rest of the city, the museum was apparently built without much forethought: “As for the gallery spaces, we didn’t know what kind of exhibitions they would hold, so they are designed to be flexible,” the architecture firm told ArchDaily.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

“This plaza is now a favorite amongst the locals who gather their families and friends to explore, play or lounge in the pleasant landscape,” wrote de zeen magazine upon Ordos’s completion in 2011, in a rather premature judgment.

Based on reports from intrepid photojournalists and travelers, including the Bohemian Blog, the city’s residents (reportedly just 20,000 souls, or two percent of the total capacity) largely consist of construction crews, maintenance workers, and random employees.

See more of Olivier’s photos of Ordos below:

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia, the Ordos mosque.<br> Photo: Raphael Olivier.

Raphael Olivier, Ordos, Inner Mongolia, the Ordos mosque.
Photo: Raphael Olivier.


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