ÂŁ4.75 September 2011
Beauty In Decay Special Edition
"What are we here for if not to explore? A life without challenge might not be worth living, but to leave this world unexplored is a waste. Look between the cracks for that which is lost and you'll find that there is beauty in decay..." IONIC SEPTEMBER 2011
Long ago in the course of human evolution, some organisms were wired such that they were able to overcome their instinctive fears of the unknown, the dark, tight spaces, heights, and other potentially lethal situations. These creatures were sometimes killed for their curiosity; however, the many that did not die often proved much more adept at locating vital resources for survival. In recent times, we can perhaps see the expression of this trait most clearly and readily in the felines, which spend their entire lives getting into, onto, under, behind, and between everything they can. It's a great way of finding mice, hiding spaces, look-out perches, you name it. Cats are very hard-wired for exploration. The exploration impulse can also be seen in mankind, albeit to a lesser extent. You can see it in the pages of National Geographic magazine, for example; explorers who are rewarded with fame or at least a salary by their respective societies for boldly seeking out new information and potential resources from places the masses would rather not themselves tread. However, mankind has mapped so much of the physical world that there is very little uncharted territory left to explore, and very few have the financial resources to get to those remaining locales. The original expansion-based roots of the human exploration drive no longer seem either applicable or evolutionarily advantageous. However, the natural drive to explore still lurks in the schematics of the human mind; such deep wiring is not undone in a mere few generations. There is a certain social stigma attached to those who do not “outgrow” the “childhood phase” of allowing one’s sense of wonder, curiosity, adventure, and imagination to dictate one’s behavior. No normal adult is expected to spend time wondering what lurks behind locked doors, beneath manhole covers, or up on the rooftops. And of course, no sane adult would actually act on such deviant, primitive motivations! But some do anyway. In the guts of sprawling metropolises, there are those who attain subtle and deeply satisfying pleasure by triggering their brains’ ancient exploration-rewarding wiring. We do so by
exploring the lost, off-limits nooks and crannies of urban life; tunnel systems, drains, caves, sewers, vacant structures, or even active, yet private, structures. We call ourselves urban adventurers, urban explorers, urban spelunkers, infiltrators, sewer rats, vadders, diggers, and drainers. We are driven to share our tales with others, who get pleasure from reading them due to their own similar (if in many cases totally repressed) drives to explore the urban underbelly. Ventures into abandoned structures are perhaps the most common example of urban exploration. At times, sites are entered first by locals, and may sport large amounts of graffiti and other acts of vandalism. Explorers face various risks in abandoned structures including collapsing roofs and floors, broken glass, guard dogs, the presence of chemicals and other harmful substances, most notably asbestos, hostile squatters and motion detectors. Some explorers wear respirators to protect their airways and proper attire to protect their bodies.Although targets of exploration vary from one country to another, highprofile abandonments include amusement parks, grain elevators, factories, power plants, missile silos, fallout shelters, hospitals, asylums, schools, poor houses, and sanatoriums. In Japan, ruins are known as haikyo, (literally, ‘abandoned place’) but the term is synonymous with the practice of urban exploration. Haikyo are particularly common in Japan because of its rapid industrialization (e.g., Hashima Island), damage during World War II, the 1980s real estate bubble and the 2011 Thoku earthquake and tsunami.
Many explorers find decay of uninhabited space to be profoundly beautiful and some are also proficient freelance photographers. Abandoned locations can be, at times, heavily guarded with motion sensors and active security. Others are more easily accessible and carry less risk of discovery. Abandoned sites are also popular among historians, preservationists, architects, archaeologists, industrial archaeologists, and ghost hunters. Regardless of what is or isn’t trendy, or over-exposed, or socially unacceptable, true explorers will always have serious trouble finding the will to stop themselves from taking just a quick stroll past the “No Admittance” door, or from peeking beneath the unlocked grate in the sidewalk. Our need to explore is not a recent or calculated addition to our minds, chosen to capitalize socially off of a new and exciting “underground” activity. It won’t fade in the face of any media attention, or government crackdown, or MTV commercialization. Imagination, sense of wonder, the drive to explore, love of adventure; these traits can survive almost anything just like rats and cockroaches.
And that is why we explore.
IONIC SEPTEMBER 2011
Photography by Michael Foster Words by Julia Freedman
IONIC SEPTEMBER 2011
BEAUTY IN DECAY A look at Urban Exploration and what this means for modern Architecture
IONIC SEPTEMBER 2011
FEAUTURES 4 Lost in Time 12 Beauty In Decay 20 Saturation 26 Asylum
REGULARS 2 Opening Shot 45 Review 55 Preview 60 Products
CONTENTS IONIC SEPTEMBER 2011