Note: This is cross-posted from the old Imagethief blog. The original post is here.
A few days ago, on the construction site across the main boulevard from where I live, a set of huge characters went up, exhorting the workers to “close the gap, finish the building”. OK, twenty-foot characters seemed a bit excessive, but exhortations hung on the side of construction sites are pretty common in this town.
Then it turned out that the characters lit up at night. Great. Two rows of twenty foot, illuminated characters pointed more or less straight at our bedroom and living room windows.
And then they hung an enormous screen in a conspicuous gap in the characters, and this is the result:
Yes, that’s right, I have watch this sign count down for the next three and a half months. At least. Because four years of Olympic countdown times and a smattering of Shanghai expo counters just weren’t enough. (Only one row of characters is visible in this photo, taken from a balcony at the eastern extremity of our apartment, but trust me, there are two.)
The photo really doesn’t do justice to the scale of this thing. These characters are colossal, each well over a tall building storey in height. Maybe it’s just me, but couldn’t they have simply used the money to offer the workers a bonus for finishing quickly, and spared every resident of Soho New Town, Blue Castle, China Central Place, and the old local neighborhood on the northwest corner of Dawang Qiao the tyranny of watching this thing ratchet down by days for a third of the year?
Perhaps this isn’t quite intrusive enough. I actually think they should have installed personal countdown clocks in the living rooms of all our apartments, and perhaps forced our TVs to display it as well any time the sets weren’t tuned to CCTV’s “Network News”. Perhaps a refrigerator magnet, too.
This building has actually had a troubled construction. It was going strong until the beginning of 2009. Then construction wrapped up shortly before Chinese New Year, for the holiday we originally thought. But it never started again. I can only presume the backers became victims of the financial crisis. But like that building that lay fallow on Gongti, near Dongdaqiao Rd. Sanlitun Rd., for something like three years before finally being completed, it appears to have found fresh backing in the midst of Beijing’s insane property bubble, and is now racing toward completion. One presumes the developers want to get the units offloaded before people come to their senses and realize that there is an upper limit on the investment value of a bunch of apartments nobody is living in.
At any rate, I’d like to thank them all for blotting out a big chunk of what little sky is visible from our apartment and replacing that sky with an enormous, crimson death-clock.
Also, what is up with the new CCTV tower? That thing still isn’t open. Are they waiting for something to happen with the burned-out hulk of the Mandarin Oriental? That’s a big pile of real estate to be sitting idle. But, then, when you’re an opaque, quasi-governmental entity, maybe that just doesn’t matter.