Yesterday, via the BBC, BLDGBLOG explored the militarily controlled and organized instant city of Naypyidaw, new capital of Burma (aka Myanmar), a whole city built so that the Burmese dictatorship could move nearly 300 miles north from where the capital had originally been (Rangoon – aka Yangon).
But what if they’d moved the capital – a mere two miles? Or one mile – or twenty-five feet? The entire imperial capital picks up… and moves eight feet to the southwest. Thirty-five centimeters. The buildings themselves aren’t changed – though perhaps all the streets are renamed.
Meanwhile, everything looks the same.
Or: as a child you went on holidays with your auntie to a small village in southern France, but now you’re 63 years old and you haven’t been there in half a century. So you hire a car and you drive down, alone, crossing the Millau Viaduct, to arrive in the same old village before sunset.
But something doesn’t feel right.
For one thing, that view of the distant hills that you remember so vividly, from the picture window in your family cottage outside town, no longer even captures the hills; instead you stare blankly at the valley right next to them. How could that have happened…? And the front door no longer opens out to face the old oak tree.
Worse, the nearby forest seems a whole lot closer to the edge of town, and several buildings are practically falling into the nearby river; that’s impossible, you think: you used to play down there. Is your memory really that bad?
You can’t sleep at night. Do you have Alzheimer’s Disease…? You toss and turn. Do you drink too much? You get up and look out the window, dehydrated. Or have you just been wrong about everything, all along?
To bide the time before driving back north, you do some casual gardening out back, screwing around with a shovel and wondering why, as you tried to go back to find the past, everything fell out from beneath you – when you discover something: foundation stones. You clear away more dirt and stare.
They match the outline of the family cottage.
You dig a bit more, sweating – and, as some clouds pass over the sun, sending a chill down the back of your neck, you find that stupid plastic toy you buried as a 12-year old. You’d put it right beside the house – you remember that – you’d even been scolded for digging so close to your auntie’s bedroom window – yet now here it is clear out in the middle of the yard.
You drop the shovel.
Small discrepancies like this suddenly stand out all over town: the well in the central plaza, for instance, is now inexplicably close to the old tavern – whereas it very definitely used to stand right out there in the open, catching sunshine. You used to read books there. You know what you’re talking about.
You don’t have Alzheimer’s Disease.
The town has been moved.