This site offered us so much: a shuttered racecourse grandstand struggling to keep out the rain; a ‘François Cafe’ kitted out in faux-Parisian style from a 1986 makeover complete with a fake Renoir painting on the wall; a forgotten library of horse racing with books and records dating back a century; and a pristine piece of New Zealand’s computing history. In the 1930s racing odds were mechanically determined inside this totalisator building. The expected dividends were shown as barometers which consisted of two strips of differently coloured canvas, one displaying place and the other for the win. They were sophisticated machines to maintain and to operate, with reset procedures needing to be performed between each race. The totalisator engineers maintained their machines diligently, taking considerable pride in their smooth operation and appearance.
Our friend Red Sky and his Auckland-based associates cracked this sweet Auckland rooftop recently. Fans of Ally Law’s madnesses will like the running escape. Nice one lads!
The most comprehensive effort we’ve yet made to capture the experience of a climb. This is a viaduct in Aotearoa New Zealand. The edit features two separate perspectives: the climber’s point of view and that of an observing drone.
Part One: Someone Up There [0:00] Climbing has always created certain vistas of landscapes which would otherwise remain unseen. Climbing is also a human experience. A landscape is transformed into an obstacle by the simple fact that there is someone finding their way up there. This edit is a chance for the viewer to watch as one human watches another human navigating a landscape.
Part Two: Within Our Grasp [8:40] It is natural for us to reach for whatever lies within our grasp. POV videography allows someone to reach on behalf of others. Thanks for accompanying us as we reach for new experiences.
Part Three: A Delicate Crossing [17:38] Ahead is a native timber walkway too perished to be trustworthy; to the left is a steel guttering constructed 1896—1902, to the right a loose-hanging cable that is more a comfort than a protection; below are steel girders ranging from a little over a foot’s width to a little under, and below them nothing but airspace behind which a charcoal-blue tinted river glints among a green landscape.
In 2014 on a Urbexcentral excursion in the hills- Gunner (as per usual), saw this tower as a challenge rather than an obstacle and couldn’t be talked out of free climbing it. We waited in trepidation at the bottom, as he proceeded to knock the bastard off.
Among the many artefacts left behind at the closure of this masonic centre, one of the more interesting was a typed script for a masonic ceremony. Attempting to decode the script with its mysterious redactions and abbreviations was a fun challenge. It appears that a candidate for a degree of freemasonry is given the role of Third Sojourner in a play acted out over the chessboard-tiled floor. Three sojourners have recently come out of captivity in Babylon, and offer their masonry skills acquired during forced labour to the Sanhedrin – an assembly of Jewish rabbis – to assist with building the second temple of Solomon. After convincing the Sanhedrin of their genuine intentions, they are employed and dispatched to the site of the build. They are given rudimentary tools – a pickaxe, shovel and crowbar, safety ropes and explicit instructions to keep secret any artefacts they uncover from Solomon’s first temple, which according to Jewish tradition was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II in 587 BCE. Unsurprisingly, they do make a string of discoveries in a plot as preordained as an episode of CSI: a pickaxe loosens up the earth and reveals a hollow sound beneath; a shovel clears away the earth to uncover the crown of a stone arch; its central keystone has a ring attached; a crowbar happens to perfectly fit that ring and allows the keystone to be lifted to reveal an engraving on it signposting a path to hidden treasure; lots are drawn to determine which sojourner descends into the dark cavity with the rope “cable tow” around his waist in case he meets danger and needs to be hauled up by his companions; the air he finds below is indeed poisonous and the dark is pervasive, so they wait for the illumination of the rising sun and the dissipation of the foul air; the second sojourner descends and retrieves a scroll (which according to another online source is the last remaining copy of a book of holy law hidden during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem); the three sojourners bind themselves to secrecy, and led by the third sojourner they make one final descent as the sun reaches its high meridian; they find a beautiful subterranean chamber and another arch made of marble, banners bearing names, and other peculiar “signs”.
As the three sojourners close up the vault, obscure its point of entry, and resolve to return the scroll, a hand drawing of the underground chamber and word of their other discoveries to the Sanhedrin, they demonstrate values and practices considered worthy of a freemason. In many respects these values and practices are not dissimilar to the ways of urban explorers. We understand the thrill of discoveries made while fossicking through the forgotten, dark cavities of the modern city. We too make sure the whole crew gets out safe. Like freemasons we swear each other to secrecy, albeit somewhat less formally. And we can also exhibit a similar tribalism founded on knowledge mindfully shared and withheld.
A couple of old chimneys tower over an abandoned glass factory near the village of Krushevo, in the municipality of Sevlievo, in Gabrovo Province, northern central Bulgaria. Gunner thanks his generous and kind hosts, Nicola Miller and Jonathan Taylor.
Built out of New Zealand native kauri wood in 1899 and the largest structure in New Zealand around in its time, this grand mansion is slated for demolition following extensive earthquake damage.
The mansion was built lavishly both inside and out for a Scottish immigrant Allan McLean, and its beauty is resounding even in its currently dilapidated state. McLean donated his mansion to women’s education upon his death, a worthy cause – we hope McLean’s can eventually be restored and not demolished.
Exploring one of Christchurch’s last grand mansions still standing brought emotions of amazement and sadness as we looked around its unique beauty and its so-far-decided future, demolition.
Until finding this place, I had no idea there was any kind of undercity in Wellington (drains notwithstanding).
It seems this hulking highrise luxury hotel has been built directly on top of an old house which is accessible from a dank ledge perched beneath the overhead colossus. Supporting columns sprout from the floors and pigeons seem to have taken up residence in this old home. Given Wellington’s tectonic nature, this was somewhat of an uneasy location to explore – but a very cool one nonetheless.
I’m not sure what the motivation was here in not demolishing the house, perhaps it was impossible to do so given some heritage protection – so the developers may have just worked “around” the problem…
Some old hotel paperwork hint at the house being previously accessible from the hotel above – but now any such route has been sealed over and the only access is via a a climb through a trash, rat and sewage filled dead space between buildings.
This tower that once supported a railway bridge, now looks more like a prop from a Peter Jackson movie. A prop nonetheless, that Gunner was obliged to conquer…
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for Urbex Central. Thanks for watching and stay tuned for 2014…
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Gunner gets in some tight rope walking practise up the cables of an abandoned suspension bridge. This particular bridge was a crucial factor to the success of this region in the early to mid 19th century. Check out Gunner’s video of the event here…
“Don’t play on the tracks- head for the high ground”. Why not do both? Part II of Escarpment…
Following on from the success of our last collaboration with these traceurs we tagged along with them for a day, this is the first video in a series displaying their unique ability to interact with and explore the urban environment via. parkour.Their philosophy revolves heavily around the concept: “Etre fort pour être utile” (Be strong to be useful) and as you will see in some of our other videos (some yet to come) they practice what they preach…
Much like urban exploration, our bread and butter, parkour is about interacting with our urban environment and experiencing it in new and different ways. Where we preserve it statically on film and in video, practitioners of parkour interact kinetically with the landscape.
Massive respect to the guys from Wellington Parkour and Freerunning for performing these feats.
In keeping with our recent racecourse posts, but this time from a different racecourse entirely, join us on a trip up to the top of an observation tower at a rural racecourse on the Kapiti coast. Taken just after a big storm had lashed the lower North island, thankfully the wind had dropped enough to make the climb.
Horsing around at a deserted racecourse and inspecting a disused tote building…