Source: HK URBEX
Rural residential housing and industrial building are seemingly detached to our urban modern life now. However, they preciously recorded our past which is not written in the textbook. These may be very important for the next generation to learn about our past, physically, visually and sensually.
At the same time, these abandoned buildings have their own characters. Compared to the modern buildings in the dense city, these are some opposite examples which create another level of aesthetics.
Urban Explorers in Hong Kong
“Urban Explorers is the exploration of man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins or not usually seen components of the man-made environment. Photography and historical interest/documentation are heavily featured in the hobby and, although it may sometimes involve trespassing onto private property, this is not always the case. Urban exploration is also commonly referred to as infiltration, although some people consider infiltration to be more closely associated with the exploration of active or inhabited sites. It may also be referred to as draining (when exploring drains), urban spelunking, urban rock climbing, urban caving, or building hacking.”
-Definition from Wikipedia
Urban exploration presents various risks, including physical danger, and possibility to be arrested due to trespassing. However, these risks do not seem to bother the explorers. A group called HK Urbex has been recording and capturing the beauty in the hidden side of Hong Kong. There’s an article about them from CNN:
Since then they’ve traversed Hong Kong’s crumbling edifices and documented them with high-quality first-person-shooter style videos and eerie photographs. Urban exploration in Hong Kong involves the same risks as it does in any other place. The first step usually involves trespassing.
“Stationary guards are easier to skirt,” says Echo Delta. “As for patrolling guards, we need to play hide-and-seek.” Once they get inside, they walk around — scaling from top to bottom.
They insist they observe, document and leave without altering anything. “Visiting the abandoned sites always evokes a lot of emotions and feelings,” says Echo Delta. “It’s like a child opening up a wrapped present, always curious what is inside the box.” Ghost adds: “I like the quiet, spiritual feeling of a deserted building.” “Sometimes I even do urban exploration alone. It’s a one-on-one with the building, a very serene moment.”
– CNN News
Without a well established political system that overrides the economic decisions, there’s no guarantee for built heritage to be protected against demolition. What makes the situation worse is that, the government often disclose the development plan in a very low- profile way, making the public unaware of these demolition plans. It is a very common scene of Hong Kong people exclaiming about their desire to protect the heritage only when it comes to demolition, which is often too late. In many case, even lots of people expressed their opinion against the demolition, the government seldom changed their decisions. With an exceptional efficiency, those buildings are demolished within few days once decided, and it is an irreversible loss to the public. Despite numerous social campaigns and protests, there are almost no successful cases to change the government’s decisions. The worse consequence is that some people started to get numb to the repeating failure and have no more hope on the political system, and gradually giving up to uphold civic rights…Urban explorers: A modern kind of documentation
Urban explorers place themselves into a gap between the “death” and the “final judgement” of abandoned buildings or ruins. These built structures are considered “dead” since they remained abandoned, but at the same time their future have not been declared. They are neither demolished, or inhabited. This narrow gap between two states allow the explorers to captured and record the recent images for the buildings. If they are to demolished, the photo records becomes the last historical document. If they are to re-developed or revitalized, these records become an intermediate stage between transformations.
Future of these abandoned?
What makes these pictures most fascinating is probably the unlimited potentials of the future of them through one’s imagination. Any architectural intervention may disturb the aesthetic of this imagination. A related conversation was written in Chris Moorhouse‘s blog:
“I think by all means its always good when a space is reused, I think it depends what reuse means, I see a lot of farmers that reuse old houses on land that they’ve purchased, to just store farm parts and to me it just kind of like sucks, its not the best reuse, but at the same time I understand. […] Its important to acknowledge that there’s so many things that we can hold on to and especially with large buildings too, a lot of the time its really cool when they’re turning this industrial building into a theatre. If they can do something like that its great, its always awesome you can preserve that architecture but at the same time it makes perfect sense for people to say we just can’t afford it, or the building is too far gone. I think its always good but its not like its a shame when it isn’t done either because there’s reasons for both. I think the biggest problem I have is when a building like that is kind of just left to rot, and then there is just massive fences around and people are making sure you can’t get in. Like there are safety reasons which I can understand, there are legal reasons too, but that really gets me mad, that means that nobody will ever get to see what that place was like in its last legs (1)”
As Alois Riegl mentioned in “The Modern Cult of Monument”, it is not realistic without considering the practical use of a heritage in present-days value.
“If we were to assume that it were actually possible to produce a modern substitution for all usable monuments, so that old originals could live out their lives without restoration, but as a result also without any practical use, would the requirements of age value be met completely? The question is not only justified, the answer to it is clearly no.”
Probably, the most difficult job for an architect is to propose an appropriate and sustainable program and function for the abandoned structure, in which does not contradict much to the “historical value”. Now, with the modern cult towards the abandoned structures (that brings serenity and peace in contrast to the urban busy environment), the complexity of conservation is definitely increased. Is it even possible to take that into account?