Monday, March 17, 2008
Putting Up a Facade
This is a picture of a furniture store in the midst of getting itself ready for the onslaught of visitors in August.
I pass by it everyday on my way to work and it's a strange long building covered with a blue curved roof. It looks like it should be a warehouse, but in fact sells furniture retail.
And then a few weeks ago some workers started putting up this European arched facade in front of the building to cover up its ugliness. The arches are prefabricated so it's pretty easy for them to put them together.
And I thought they would leave them in the dark grey colour, but that wasn't the case. Now they are painting them a cream colour that is hardly stylish.
This quick-fix solution is happening everywhere in the city. To hide dilapilated hutongs, the city has resorted to building giant walls so that foreigners won't be able to see them from the street.
It looks like Beijing is desperate to show the world how progressive it is. But foreigners do find old things charming, even if they are run-down.
Some visitors have remarked to me they are disappointed after visiting the Forbidden City because the buildings have new paint jobs and don't look old.
And when people descend on the capital five months from now, they do want to see the amazing new architectural feats like the National Grand Theatre, the National Stadium that looks like a bird's nest and the funky National Aquatic Centre that's a cube filled with bubbles. Oh yes and the Rem Koolhaas CCTV building that has two angles joined together.
But they also want to see the remaining hutongs and the old city walls to give them a taste of old Beijing. They will fall in love with the siheyuan or courtyard houses, and will love watching the people doing all kinds of activities in parks.
After all, that's what Beijing really is about. And there's no hiding that.