It’s tempting to associate foreboding industrial abandonments with former Soviet Russia, but derelict factories occupy vast swaths of land in cities across the world. They have often come to symbolise the shift from the age of manufacturing to that of high technology, and loom above the post-industrial landscape as rusting reminders of times gone by.
While the environmental impact of derelict factories is concerning, there’s something eerie and fascinating about these abandonments that has proven irresistable to photographers and urban explorers. Taken in isolation, their purpose of churning out the components needed to make the modern world go round seems rather mundane. Only in abandonment, it seems, do their shattered windows, decaying walls and blackened innards tell the story of a more glorious time in manufacturing, and remind us of the power of industry in shaping the modern world.
Some abandoned factories even manage to look like haunted houses. On the outside, the derelict building above (top) wouldn’t look too out of place nestling in the middle of an overgrown garden. But the pictures beneath it, from Italy and France, including an abandoned streetcar and gas works, depict more traditional looking cast-offs of the industrial world, their jobs complete, their status redundant.
But despite their grimy and often foreboding appearance, some industrial abandonments take on a more colourful life of their own inside. This derelict factory in Sheffield, UK, has become a graffiti artist’s paradise, with an irreverent depiction of Daffy Duck that pretty much says it all. Sheffield was once one of the world’s main steel producing cities. Sheffield’s modern service-based economy has given rise to new occupants on former brown field sites, although the decaying remnants of the city’s great industrial past can still be gleaned, as well as the tiny pubs where workers drank.
If the interior of the Sheffield factory isn’t colourful enough, here’s an abandoned sail factory in Perth, Australia, that looks more like a modern art exhibit than an example of post industrial doom and gloom. Nate Robert’s photography has worked wonders with the subject matter, giving a truly unique look and feel to a building that, like so many others, has fallen into dereliction and been heavily vandalised. View more of Nate’s work via his Flickr set (above), and explorations of Fremantle Power Station and Perth’s Old Treasury Building.
Despite the occasionally colourful interiors and the wonders of photography, abandoned industrial buildings are dark, gloomy and highly hazardous places, not to be entered lightly, if at all. Urban explorers face myriad dangers from potential toxic waste, needles, squatters and unsafe structures, and seeking permission before entering is highly recommended. Seldom is the post industrial landscape more impressive – depending on how you look at it – than in Detroit. Explore abandoned Detroit now by joining us on a Rust Belt Road Trip.