The Decomposition of a Dream


The image below evoked my extreme obsession with abandoned places.

Photo credit: David Gray

I’d venture to say that nearly everyone in the world would look at this photo and be reminded of the iconic Disney castle, especially now that media outlets like the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Business Insider have written on this abandoned park using Disney-esque indicators. The picture below is the Magic Kingdom in Florida. The abandoned castle is a skeletal representation of the richly populated and treasured castle below, or at least appears to be.

Disney World Theme Park -  Florida
Disney World Theme Park – Florida

The derelict castle was part of a 120-acre amusement park in the village of Chenzhuang, China – about 20 miles outside of Beijing. Funded by the Thailand-based Reignwood Group. The Disneyland parallel – Wonderland – was intended to stimulate tourism in this otherwise vacuous farmland. The project soon fell victim to financial problems when farmers and local government fought over the value of the land. Investors pulled out of the project, bringing construction to an abrupt halt in 1998, and despite attempts to revive the project in 2008, Wonderland remained a skeletal representation of a dream that, as of 2013, was razed both physically and metaphorically.

Side note: According to an article by National Geographic: “Many analysts say such scenes may become more common in China as property values that soared over the past decade have moved steadily downward for the first time since private home ownership became legal in the 1990s. Local governments, which have used land as collateral for some U.S. $1.7 trillion in debt, are left in a dangerous situation.” The distressed remains of the Wonderland castle offer a desolate perspective of the rifts in China’s economy, and offering plausibility to analysts’ fear of developing a property bubble.

For me, there’s something very apocalyptic about the castle in Beijing. I used the word “skeletal” earlier, and I did so because I think the word, “skeletal” takes on both a literal and abstract meaning in that photograph. Literal, obviously because the park lost funding in the early stages of construction leaving the castle with the wire frames shaping what would have been the gothic towers and points.

Abstractly, the Beijing castle withered away to nothing, impels me to compare it to the break-down of human remains. When a person’s heart stops pumping blood through their body, the cells are deprived of oxygen and rapidly begin to die, prompting the decomposition process. The investors were the heart of the operation, pumping money through its veins to fund construction, but when the heart stopped blood stopped flowing, and without it the  construction workers had no reason to continue, depriving the cells (the structure) of oxygen.