On what used to be an ex-military airport in the South of Beijing, you’ll find an uncannily recognisable cross between a luxury riding resort, an ecological park and a trailer park. Sitting in the middle of this unusual resort are a growing cluster of accommodations that costs roughly the same price as a four star hotel.

The entrance of the park is decorated by giant graphic of a Chinese Disneyland, modelled on a utopia of the modern middle class urbanites who’d pick ‘n’ mix leisure activities from the western media onto a new theme park aesthetic.

The buildings looked just like any other American wooden pre-fabricated house, built with a bunch of mates over beer on a sunny day in the States. Each of these houses were architectural symbols of Western freedom ready for rent, all set in well-manicured European-style gardens with barbecue stoves and staff willing to help you light them. Guests would hire for the package for outdoors gatherings when they were sick of richly decorated and over-serviced restaurant interiors from Beijing’s cosmos.

What could be more appropriate for an ex-soviet base than to plunk luxury English teahouses set in the architectural structure of American trailer parks? I seriously couldn’t make this stuff up even if I tried. Matt Jones of Berg used to hammer down our throats that “real life is always stranger than the imaginary”.

I’m not sure I fully agree with Matt but even he’d raise his eyebrows at this.

But when you get over the initial shock and kitsch-fatigue, you really start to relax and become quite enchanted at being transformed into a sort of Southern colonial setting filled with the scent of fresh mock-Victorian paint.

The rooms are scattered with an assortment of nostalgic replicas. In this astonishing array of catalogue aspirations I had to point out the inconsistency of placing nautical decorations in an airbase, adding to my ‘in-wonderlandness’.

Individuals who might want to invest in this ‘get-away haven’ have the opportunity to lease the residencies on an annual basis. The owners of the park are confident that investors would be interested in planting their own vegetables in the permanent greenhouses and grape vines around the private thermal jacuzzi supplied by a mysterious subterraneous volcanic vent in the outskirts of Beijing… (if anyone could confirm this please let me know).

Either way, no one enjoyed the soak on the day of my visit because the sulphurous outlet pipes had yet to be built.

Should one become bored with these facilities of luxury escapism, one could take a drive around the park. We were chauffeured around on a much less ‘macho’ golf cart under the close supervision of the park owner’s PA.

On certain levels I could envisage this theme park to succeed in a land where there is an abundance of people ready to spend, experience and consume everything that was deprived from them, whether if it was with or against their will. If only Marie Antoinette was alive today, it would have been play trailer-camp village.

I could pretend that the public will refer it to films such as Guy Ritchie’s Snatch and Lars von Trier’s Dancer In The Dark but realistically I think it’s more of Nike’s viral adverts featuring the British football player “Wayne Rooney in a caravan slum, having to face shame after failing to bring glory to his nation”.

What the land’s previous nationalistic heroes would have fought so hard to avoid was becoming an aspirational theme for wealth escapism. This is the real-life example that luxury makes ideals obsolete.

Image taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/chrischarles/2010/05/review_of_the_week_67.html

The park is just newly open to the paying public, with workers making round-the-clock last-minute adjustments to perfect the ambiance of the trailer park residence. After the lake becomes open to the public this place will have every mode of transportation at the disposal of the highest amused bidder, as long as he keeps out off the sky, which this place was originally built for. A less poetic but more ironic example of corpses of obsolete investments.

 

See Previous Post: Obsolete Airbases

Written by Lisa Ma

Lisa Ma socializes activism. Combining ethnographic research and speculative design, Lisa creates platforms of engagement from surprising insights and processes that deeply resonate with the global technological community. The emergence of clicktivism – to protest at the click of a mouse – is trivializing activism. Lisa argues that although activism doesn’t necessarily benefit from technology, we need to evolve how activism contributes to technological societies. To illustrate this, she designs dilemmas and creates social events that are perceived as activism but function as services.

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