7 Abandoned Wonders of Commercial & Industrial Architecture
By Steph, Web Urbanist, 7 January 2013.
By Steph, Web Urbanist, 7 January 2013.
These castle-like structures, skeletal high-rises and rusting remains of the golden age of industry are monuments to themselves, still standing despite decades of neglect. Formerly factories, offices, corporate headquarters and industrial facilities, these 7 commercial and industrial sites contain clues to their former purposes among all the rubble, overgrown greenery, peeling paint and other effects of abandonment.
1. Abandoned High-Rises and Factories of Detroit, Michigan, USA
When it comes to Detroit, how can you choose just one standout abandonment? The city is, in and of itself, a jaw-dropping wonder of architectural decay. Once it lost its identity as a manufacturing mecca, Detroit also lost a large number of its residents, leaving block after block abandoned, with few signs of life in between. Once the fourth-largest city in the United States, Detroit is now filled with towering structures that have been left as they were when last used, often full of the ephemera of life. These include a number of high-rises - the most notable being Michigan Grand Terminal, pictured above with an overgrown lawn - and burned-out factories.
In 1950, Detroit had a population of nearly two million; today, while similar cities have grown exponentially, this one is down to less than 900,000. The fact that the city has become something of an urban Wild West doesn’t exactly encourage new residents to purchase decrepit properties and return them to their former glory. The number of abandoned buildings standing in the city currently numbers around 70,000.
2. Bethlehem Steel Factory, Pennsylvania, USA
Once the second-largest steel producer in the United States, Bethlehem Steel began work on a large facility in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the 1860s that was at the forefront of manufacturing innovation at the time. Its towering facilities made it a symbol of the industrialized future of America. During World Wars I and II, it was a major supplier of armour plate to the U.S. Armed Forces, making components of weapons like large-calibre guns. But by the 1990s, America’s steel industry began to decline, and companies like this could no longer compete with cheap foreign labour.
When Bethlehem Steel closed its local operations, it laid out a plan for its 163-acre site for cultural, recreational, educational, entertainment and retail development, to reduce economic impacts on a city that had long relied on steel manufacturing for prosperity. However, the company went out of business and the land was sold to a developer that has turned it into a casino. Ironically, the casino had difficulty coming up with the 16,000 tons of steel needed to build its new $600 million complex, so it only finished one building. Some of Bethlehem Steel’s old manufacturing structures were demolished, but furnaces and gas blowing engine house still stand.
3. Hasard Cheratte Abandoned Coal Mine, Belgium
One of the most popular abandoned sites in Europe among urban explorers, the Hasard Cheratte Coal Mine in Belgium looks a bit like a crumbling castle. The facility dates to the 1860s, and was formerly one of many such mines in the coal basin of Liege. Make your way inside and you’ll find the hulking remains of industrial equipment and heavy mining machinery and lots of long, dark brick-lined passageways. Abandoned since 1977 and now a protected heritage site, the complex still contains such small items as books and work gloves. The largest ‘castle tower’ sits over the deepest mine shaft at the facility, which plunges a mind-boggling 1,574 feet into the ground. See photos of the interior at 28 Days Later.
4. Abandoned Chemical Factory, Poland
Images via: mlociny
You probably don’t want to go inside this complex. The abandoned fluorescent light factory in Warsaw, Poland once manufactured mercury lamps; it was in the midst of renovation when astronomic mercury contamination levels put its modernization to a halt. Pools of mercury had collected under the floors, poisoning many workers. The factory was also occupied by the Nazis during World War II and used to produce transceiver equipment for submarines, tanks, and aircraft. During the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, Polish insurgents took it back.
As dangerous as it is, urban explorers have still made their way inside to photograph the peeling paint, rusted fixtures, rotting wood and broken glass. Documents, blueprints and bottles still full of chemicals are still scattered all over the building’s ten floors and basement level. The more valuable items, like toilets and sinks, are long gone.
5. Szkieletor Tower, Poland
Named after the He-Man villain Skeletor for its skeletal and arguably sort of evil appearance, Szkieletor Tower in Krakow, Poland has stood like a bleak lookout over the city since 1981. Construction began in 1975 on what was supposed to be the regional office of the Main Technical Organization, but halted six years later due to economic constraints, political unrest and the imposition of martial law in Poland. This history combined with its looks give Szkieletor an ominous feel. Though little more than a shell, it remains the tallest building in the city at 24 stories.
This tower was supposed to have a twin, and together they would have acted as a gateway to a skyscraper district in Krakow known as ‘Polish Manhattan.’ The original deadline for the entire project of Polish skyscrapers was 2005, but hopes for its future glory faded in the 1980s. Passing from one owner to the next, the building never seems to get past planning stages for renovation. A 2010 plan to turn it into a hotel has fallen flat. Instead, the building remains covered in massive billboards, a ham-fisted attempt to improve its looks and capitalize on its continued existence.
6. Warehouse B, Brussels, Belgium
Images via: abandoned-places.com
Known locally as ‘The Prison’, Brussels’ Warehouse B is just one part of a sprawling multi-purpose transport centre that was built in the early 20th century to house the Customs Administration, a railway station and a number of companies trading goods like tobacco, wine and beer. While some of these buildings are still maintained and occupied, Warehouse B has remained empty despite its beauty and historical worth. Serving as a warehouse for customs, the brick and stone building was used until 1987 for Customs storage, including confiscated goods.
The looks of the interior, including courtyards, metal security grates and many small, dark rooms, made it look a bit like a prison - so perhaps it’s no surprise that it was temporary used for this purpose by the Germans during World War II.
7. The Domes, Casa Grande, Arizona, USA
Today, ‘The Domes’ of Casa Grande, Arizona look like the remains of some sort of sci-fi movie set. Any one of these round buildings could suddenly lift off the ground and zoom away into the atmosphere like a UFO. Built for computer manufacturing in the early 1980s for a facility that was never completed, they’ve just sort of been left to rot in the desert. InnerConn planned to build circuit boards here, and spent about $150,000 on each of the polyurethane and concrete domes. The idea was that they’d be more insulated in the desert climate, leading to lower maintenance costs.
According to local wisdom, you just shouldn’t go out there - cue obligatory whispers about ghosts and Satanic rituals - but judging by all the graffiti, many people go anyway. Many of the ceilings are falling in, and The Domes were an illegal dump site for years, making them a pretty dangerous site.
[Source: Web Urbanist. Edited. Some links added.]