I had to re-write this report after I came up with a new theory on this place, the unfinished Guosheng mall in Beijing…
I started visiting abandoned places in France, and most ruins are quite old. So I was looking for the same type of places in China: I was already happy to have found an abandoned factory, an abandoned amusement park, an abandoned villa compound in Beijing… then Brïn from Burbex.org offered me to go with him on a visit to an unfinished and abandoned skyscraper. It did not occur to me at first, that these types of buildings could also be a part of « urban exploration »… Well in fact, unfinished-rotten buildings (烂尾楼 lanweilou) are very common in China. Giant projects can often be interrupted because of financial issues such as bankruptcy or accusations of corruption (these two being also eventually connected). But because they also cost a lot of money to finish or to demolish, they just remain in this « in-between » stage of construction. In this case, the location of the building was really central, the land-use value was extremely high, so it was all the more difficult to solve the issue.
A project of twin towers abandoned around… 2001!
To come back to the unfinished-rotten building, it’s not just one unfinished-rotten building, it’s Beijing’s BIGGEST unfinished-rotten building! What is more amazing is that the building is actually located in a really crowded area in the city centre, and I had no idea this place was never finished because the clever contractors hid the emerging parts under a glass facade. If you know your Beijing geography, you will understand how amazing it is when you find out where the exact location is… I am sure that, among the many people passing through that huge transportation hub, not many have a clue that the building they are walking through is a failed project. Indeed it has remained in this unfinished state for many years. The Guosheng centre (国盛中心) started as one of the most important city projects in the perspective of the 2008 Olympic Games. This very ambitious project was supposed to have a series of connected buildings including a hotel, residential and office buildings, and 160 000 square meters of department store (国盛时尚购物中心).
Construction began in 2000. But because of internal agreement issues, from 2001, the cooperation began to be difficult. Since then, the deep conflict about stock rights has not been resolved and construction has stopped, except for the transportation hub I mentioned before, which opened in 2008, and made the value of the whole area even more expensive. Therefore the financial problems even more difficult to solve. In addition to several other unfinished buildings and a central square which is also abandoned and overgrown, the Guosheng centre project has two unfinished twin towers:
Well, if we think about it, what event happened in 2001 and shaked the entire world? Something that made « twin towers » absolutely inconcevable in the preparation of an international mega-event. Yes, my theory is, it was not politically correct anymore to include twin towers in a project for the 2008 Olympic Games.
Exploring one skyscraper
Anyhow, the half-built structure was still standing and it was a special place to explore with Brïn. Even if I had a plane to catch on the next morning, we decided to go on a night trip, which made me a bit nervous. But I don’t know why, I trusted the guy… He is really good at climbing and at hiding in the dark. And he was good teacher for beginners like me. For instance, ever since I saw him step on a rusty nail that night, I have always been very careful, watching closely where I walk during my visits! Brïn said the right tower was too dangerous, so we just explored the left one. But the left one is already in a pretty bad shape, which makes this urbex an extremely dangerous one!
First, one has to find a way into the building, and not be caught by the security guards, which is not as easy as it looks. Then, you have to climb 35 floors on an unfinished concrete structure in the total dark, with big holes for elevators from the ground floor to the top that you must avoid getting too close to.Finally, you have to climb on a construction ladder to get to the rooftop and again, you must trust the quality of the structure as it’s a really high ladder. What a challenge! That is why the photos I took during this trip are there to give you an idea of what we saw, but these photos are not good because, let’s be honest, this urbex really scared the s**t out of me and I could not concentrate properly on the framing and lighting.
From below, who could imagine that this facade is hiding such a failure? Inside the floors, one can find construction objects, dust and silence. Outside, we saw a mess of scaffolding, old tools and grass.
Some people, including Brïn himself, have decorated the basic concrete walls with some colorful designs:
Because the view was wonderful on the rooftop (how lucky to see the Beijing sky unpolluted!), I could relax a little and enjoy taking a few better photos.
Yet, it was still pretty high and dangerous on that rooftop:
Brïn took much better pictures in his report of our crazy urbex here. Thanks to him, I did my first nighttime urbex and I did some really high rooftopping too. But daytime urbex seems interesting although very different too. You can admire Brïn’s pictures here. For me, this night exploration will be an unforgettable memory, and I get a special vibe every time I pass by these twin towers (it’s easy to spot them from very far away!).
I would not start again too soon though, I was lucky to be back alive without a scratch the first time, let’s keep the good memory there. And anyway, maybe the place will be redeveloped in the near future. According to news reports from August 2015, a Chinese company (中国信达) finally bought back the unfinished Guosheng centre for no less than 10,5 billion yuans1.
- See for instance « 北京最大商业烂尾楼重整 位于东直门曾停滞7年 », Beijing Youth Daily 北京青年报, August 21. 2015 ↩