LANWEI Failure or Fate


Recently we have attended the opening of a Stanley`s Wong photo exhibition „Lanwei”. Stanley, famous Hong Kong designer, travelled round Asia to find and take photos of unfinished and abandoned huge buildings, such as for example Disneyland copy near Beijing. Alhough the idea of documenting such building is interesting itself, what made his photos really special and note-worthy were the people – illigal inhabitants – captured on these photos. These shots resembled me of one unusual forest I had seen before. Forest full of many big trees with huge roots, fallen on the ground. It was really astonishing to see majestic, strong- looking trees lying deadly in the middle of the forest. Later on I read that it wasn`t because of any disaster like a huge tornado.

Process of big tree fall is seen as natural part of a nature life-cycle. To make the explanation short, some trees must fall, to let smaller insects to survive and small animals to have a shelter.lw1

These two images of fallen trees
and lanwei (from Cantonese: abandoned unfinished projects), raison in my mind, whether lanwei are just result of mistake in ordinary society life, or they ed a questi

are inevitable ingredient of society (even civilisation) order, bringing new life, new opportunities to exluded social groups.

In a private conversation, Stanley told us that people living on these abandoned constructions were „extremely happy” and cherished their life there. Well-known cultural psychologist, Dr. Andrzej Pankalla, used to say „Where the sun sets, there will be a sunrise”. This thought perfectly describes Lanwei`s life-cycle.

Let`s take a closer look at the social meaning of these unifinished buildings, someone`s big projects, maybe even life-projects. From the micro-perspective they (lanwei) are the symbol of failure, unfinished plans, that cover tragedy and pain behind. Some kind of social disease made these projects be abandoned, just like the trees were made fall.

It might sound obvious, boring or even offending to the reader to mention that failure can be seen as a normal part of a social cycle. We all know that from history, observation and our own life experiences. One civilisation must fall, to let the other to develop.

Let`s leave that social makro-perspective for a moment and come back to us, individuals.

What the images of these abandoned buildings and fallen trees mean to us? What can we learn from observing these big falls?


Personally I can only think of the answer appropriate for my social group i.e. young professional, on the verge of creating their life projects. Although everyone of us is fully aware of the possibility of failure, none of us expects that it can happen to him/herselves. At the beginning we are full of energy, motivation and hope, with virtually no failure record and any option of potential failure is remote and blurred. We feel like half-gods, legendary Greek Heroes.

When we think of the possibility of failure we may consider such factors as bad quality, immature approach, no market research and fierce competition. We all are aware of it and prepare against.

What we often don`t know, is that we need to face much stronger forces that we expect. It`s the life cycle law of every society/civilisation. Some must fail to give life and space to new forms.

Before I thought that my mistakes or sometimes outside situation can make my projects fall. After seeing Lanwei and fallen trees I realised that failure is an inevitable part of nature-life-cycle. Even I grow many many roots and do my best to stick to the ground, I might fall, driven by that life-cycle-nature force. Some call it fate, some call it God`s will, some call it differently.

What fallen trees and lanwei mean to you?

Stanley Wong’s portfolio: