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.
Shot years before this agricultural research centre was stripped bare in preparation for demolition, this video documents the extraordinary amount of science equipment left behind, even as part of the vacated space was being repurposed as a site for the training of police dogs.
This visual documentary was shot over our two visits to a former commune founded in 1973. At the time of its closure around 2000, it was the most longstanding of eight communities set up around New Zealand under the Ohu Scheme umbrella. Labour Prime Minister Norman Kirk approved the scheme in which young adults could channel their disenchantment with urban life into forming intentional communities centred around a ‘back to the land’ ethos.
Ohu is a Māori word meaning ‘communal work group’. Ohu were set up on unused Crown land, with their residents paying leases matching those of farmers grazing their livestock on government-owned land. Some saw the Ohu Scheme as a calculated initiative to remove radicals from urban settings, while its stated objectives were:
– To assist people in becoming self-sufficient from the land
– To enhance people’s spiritual and social wellbeing
– To reconnect people to the land
– To give people a chance to develop alternative social models
– To provide a communal environment as a potential antidote to the ills of modern society
– The promotion of the virtues of a simpler life
– To be a place of healing for participants as well as for society as a whole
The area in which this ohu was situated had originally been gifted to servicemen returning after World War One. However, by the time of World War Two, the land was abandoned and the access track winding its way through steep terrain steadily returned to bush. It took the 1970s ohu founders three months of hand cutting and digging to rehabilitate the track sufficiently to allow even horses to reach the ohu site. Over the course of its lifetime, up to five couples with children lived at any one time at the ohu, and undertook a range of initiatives to explore self-sufficiency, including gardening, bee keeping, dairying, manufacturing butter and soft cheese and hunting meat. Quirky DIY housing flourished in a climate of limited resources, salvaged materials, amateur architects and builders, and a relaxed attitude towards regulations.
By the turn of the millennium the same forces of isolation and endless hard manual labour that had prompted the returned servicemen’s families to walk away had again splintered a community, and the ohu dwellers departed, seemingly taking with them only what they could carry on their backs along the hour-long walk to the river. What now remains of the ohu quietly stands as an inspiring – and perhaps also cautionary – tale about utopias and visionaries.
Part One: Ohu (0:00) Our first day visit uncovered so much of interest that before we’d paddled back across the river to civilisation we were already planning our return.
Part Two: Track Work (22:25) Incessant track work was essential but could be perilous. One mother and her young son were plucked off the back of a horse that had lost its footing near the edge of a high cliff beside the river. They survived: the horse plunged to its death. Traces and eras of labour-intensive track work remain, from the wooden frame of the flying fox they used to cross the river, to farm vehicles they abandoned, to the bridges they built which for now are still just passable, to a solitary spade standing upright in the soggy landscape.
Interlude: Robin’s Room (26:12) A small outbuilding beside John’s house had a loft bedroom and a chest of drawers belonging to a youth by the name of Robin.
Part Three: Hive Minds (26:40) According to records marked on a chalkboard inside, April 1993 appears to be when beekeeping operations ceased.
Interlude: Goat Encounter (31:06) Wildlife thrives in this valley in which hunting is prohibited by law.
Part Four: Pastoral Arts (32:00) A painter’s easel stands overlooking the hillside on which the communal meeting house was built, and the nearby house still contains once-cherished paintings and art books.
Interlude: Enchanting Glade (36:08) The lush riverside environment.
Part Five: Pentagonal Dreams (36:40) Sacred geometry at play in the hexagon-worshipping architecture of the central meeting house.
Interlude: Mud Man Emerges (41:04)
Part Six: Down River (41:49) The river was the commune’s source of hydration, cleanliness, spirituality, and even the electric light in its homes once a generator was installed at the dam.
Interlude: Up River (49:18)
Part Seven: All You Need To Know (49:50) Inside the front door a short and almost indecipherable note is written on the wall: “John’s house is the best house in the ohu and that’s all you need to know.”
Interlude: What Remains (54:48)
Part Eight: Bells, Brushwork & The Business of Billowing Bamboo (55:13) The bell that rang out over the valley to gather the commune members still hangs from a tree.
Interlude: Riverside Theatre (59:41)
Part Nine: LSD 96 (1:00:57) We were told this meeting house used to be a Mongrel Mob headquarters. LSD and mystical geometry seems to have inspired its upper floor with its dome ceiling.
Welcome to the complete video document of Gunner’s adventures with Urbex Central at Erskine College in Island Bay, Wellington, New Zealand, in the years after its closure in 2012.
Part One: Rage Against The Dying Of The Light [0:00]
Several years ago now, we visited Erskine College at night. We found our way into its pristine Gothic chapel, which was added to the college in 1929-30. It had at that time recently been operating as a wedding venue before being declared earthquake prone. We lit up the chapel once more, first with candlelight and then with halogen flood lights powered by a petrol generator. Over the course of the next three years we revisited the college and documented it as best we could, while the destruction from vandalism seemed to be advancing mercilessly towards the chapel. Today most of the college has been demolished to make way for a housing development, while the chapel remains, albeit emptied out and boarded up. We’re happy to bring you the chapel as we first found it.
Part Two: Ascension Day [5:59]
In the year following our first visit to Erskine College, tagging had visibly advanced to the choir loft at the back of the chapel. Hung high out of reach of taggers’ sharpies are the stations of the cross, the closest of which to us depict scenes where Jesus is “aided by Simon” and “stripped of his garments”. By this time Urbex Central had evolved into a highly active and — more importantly — a warm collective, as evident in moments of playful cooperation captured on video. Thankfully one of the organs was foot-powered.
Part Three: Walk Towards The Falling Water, I Will Meet You There [10:36]
In 2009, a poetic arts student wrote in chalk on top of a set of wooden shelves: “Walk towards the falling water / I will meet you there”. Construction began on Erskine College, a former Catholic girls’ school, in 1905, with a chapel added in 1929-30. In 1985 it ceased operating as a college, and in 1992 a trust was formed and given responsibility for its heritage protection. Between 1997 and 2009 it was tenanted by a tertiary art school. The chapel then reopened as a wedding venue until being declared earthquake prone in 2012.
Part Four: Acts of The Apostle [17:47]
Another year has passed, and once more the chapel is inviting exploration. We know the space well enough now to relax in the moment and capture details hitherto unseen. With explorers almost entirely absent from the frame, the gentle zooming in and out of the camera seems to capture an aspect of human experience deeper than adventure: our cyclical approaching and withdrawing from faith and/or artistry of many kinds as we navigate our lives.
Elvis was the tender age of 19 when he recorded “That’s Alright Mama” in “a new, distinctive style” on the Sun label. Many of the arrivals at this commune founded in 1973 were of a similar age, seeking to live in a new, distinctive style under the sun. A painter’s easel stands overlooking the hillside on which the communal meeting house was built, and the nearby house still contains once-cherished paintings and art books.
A return and a farewell to an enormous, decaying industrial site- on the eve of its imminent demolition, decontamination and redevelopment. The soundtrack (The Overload) by Talking Heads, is the finale from their 1980 album “Remain in Light”.
This former rail tunnel has sat abandoned since 1900. It is now three-quarters buried by the earth, and half-flooded. Distinctive arrow imprints on the red and brown clay bricks indicate the presence of prison labourers in its construction. Prisoners serving terms with hard labour wore arrows on their uniforms to visually distinguish them from civilian workers, and they marked their handmade bricks with arrows, as a kind of self-portrait. Finding this tunnel was a team effort involving anecdotes from rail workers, hand-drawn maps of enthusiasts, and – finally – simply groping through thick vines in search of the source of faint sounds of trickling water. The entrances are completely obscured in dense overgrowth. The thrill of finding something so untouched for so long is indescribable.
Driving rural back roads in the Waitomo region, we came across several well-worn former abodes. Interestingly to us, many a collapsing farmhouse had a companion tree somewhat alleviating its loneliness, presumably planted by its former occupants.
After hearing a rumor about a mysterious train tunnel in the South Island of New Zealand myself and DerelictNZ went out to investigate.
Sadly our first attempt was a bit of a fail after spending a whole afternoon trying to find it but after some more research urbexcentral returned and this time success!
The tunnel was fully bored and constructed in the early 1940’s however it was given up on after some of the walls started breaching. The damage inside the tunnel is pretty substantial and it felt pretty unsafe to lurk through, from the crazy angles and curvature in the tunnel I suspect the kaikoura earthquake in 2016 played a part in the damage.
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.
Located in a sleepy town that has had its fair share of earthquakes lies this little aquarium on the wharf, abandoned and closed down due to earthquake damage. In operation, it seems the aquarium was well loved and although small was full of interactive activities for children who visited.
Due to an injury this explore posed a little bit of a challenge to UC but thanks to fellow explorer DerelictNZ we were able to successfully explore this place and enjoy its wonder; such as an inflatable shark, not quite the infamous Melbourne shark but close enough.
Late last year we explored the abandoned waterpark “Ho Thuy Tien” near Hue, Vietnam. This place has been fairly well documented by UE and backpackers before, so to mix things up a bit we decided to predominately explore the park via bicycle- and we’re talking about the old school one speed bicycle variety with a basket on the handle bars.
It took 30-40 minutes in the heat & humidity to bike there from Hue city, courtesy of Google Maps. At the main gate we were surprisingly waved through by a guard. We were expecting a “fee” like all other locals and visitors alike. Perhaps he felt because we’d biked all the way out there we deserved the “free” entry- what ever the case it was good karma. Locals we spoke to later just could not believe we’d been given “free” entry.
Closed a decade ago- probably because of the high priced tickets and lack of attractions- the park has over the years become a hang out for local youth, urban explorers, backpackers, and on weekends (in this case) a bus load of students. Apart from getting the neck slit gesture after outstaying our welcome at some local lads bbq on top of the waterslide section- it was a safe and surreal experience- and then we had to bike all the way back to town…
This abandoned courthouse was built in 1913. It was designed to reflect New Zealand’s ties to the British Empire. The building was only used until 1970 as a courthouse and was continued to be used for government buildings till the 1990’s.
Since then it was laid unoccupied and fallen into disrepair although meant to be restored, it is far from that. Hope you enjoy the pictures, it was a solid explore and one of urbex centrals’ most desired locations along the West Coast of New Zealand.
This hospital is one of the most intact abandoned hospitals left in New Zealand. Closed in 2007 and subsequently purchased privately, this hospital has been left abandoned and untouched.
Inside the hospital it’s quite amazing how much is left, from X-ray machines to a fully functioning theater its as if the hospital could open again at any minute although left abandoned 10 years ago.
We first visited this hospital in 2012 and now once again in 2017, not much has changed but it remains one of Urbex Central’s favourite explores in the North Island of New Zealand.
“Black Palace” (Damnak Sla Khmao) was a little summer palace of King Sihanouk, abandoned sometime in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. It’s located on Bokor Hill Station in southern Cambodia. The “Palace” itself is not on a grand scale, but the overall spectacular location and many outer buildings must have been fairly impressive in its day.
The hill station was built as a resort by colonial French settlers as an escape from the heat, humidity and general insalubrity of Phnom Penh. Nine hundred lives were lost in the nine months during the construction of the resort in this remote mountain location.
The centrepiece of the resort was the grand Bokor Palace Hotel (which has never been a casino) inaugurated in 1925. See previous video- “Casino Rouge”. It was used as the location for the final showdown of the excellent Matt Dillon 2002 movie, “City Of Ghosts”.
Bokor Hill was abandoned first by the French in late 1940s, during the First Indochina War, because of local insurrections guided by the Khmer Issarak. It was only in 1962, for the reopening of the “Cité du Bokor”, that a casino was established in the new hotels near the lake, (Hotels Sangkum and Kiri). Some buildings were added at this time: an annex for the palace, the mayor’s office and a strange mushroomed concrete parasol.
The Bokor mountain was abandoned again in 1972, as Khmer Rouge took over the area. During the Vietnamese invasion in 1979, Khmer Rouge entrenched themselves and held on tightly for months. In the 1990s Bokor Hill was still one of the last strongholds of Khmer Rouge.
The great wall in China, one of the great wonders of the world.
Although seen as a tourist destination that is well kept and maintained by the Chinese government, the great wall spans for 8,851.8 kilometers. Of this 8000 Kilometers much of the great wall has fallen into disrepair and is subsequently abandoned and falling apart.
It takes about two hours of walking past the vast amounts of tourists before you get to the abandoned and what is arguably most representative version of the huge spanning great wall, we hope you enjoy the shots!
Having had this closed down and dilapidated cement works on the radar for a couple of years, the urbexcentral crew alongside wildboyzue (UK) finally got to take a visit!
As we drove the long drive to this location, we had mixed feelings of defeat and curiosity from earlier exploration attempts but we were determined to finally do something epic this road trip.
Now, with our target in sight we quickly worked out the best way to photograph the place and we were soon basking in an oasis of abandonment, from coming across remnants of a past busy workplace, to huge machinery and infrastructure, including a decommissioned coal run power plant!
We came across this dilapidated, soon to be demolished house recently after having it on our radar for quite some. After a shall we say, tight crawl we found ourselves surrounded in forgotten belongings and hoardings.
As we crept through the house we came across many memories of the old house owners past and it was quite sad to think that most of the amazing stuff in this place would soon be in the landfill, what a waste!
On our recent trip down in the South Island of New Zealand we found ourselves accidentally stumbling across this soon to be demolished abandoned mini golf course in Christchurch, New Zealand.
As we walked through it, it felt barely abandoned and seemingly such a waste; it must have been a pretty cool course once upon a time, it is soon to be bowled over to make way for a redevelopment, most probably housing.
This woolen mill in the South Island of New Zealand had been through troubled times, with it being saved from closure in 2012 until once again facing uncertainty in early 2016 when the company running the business finally went into receivership.
The machines, wool and remnants of the workers have lain dormant since, like everyone just up and left one day!
Our visit here was along route on our South Island urbex trip, never expecting such an intact woolen mill to be just sitting there decaying and forgotten. Subsequently our explore into the mill began cautiously and it appeared the further we ventured into the mill, the more it seemed likely we might suddenly bump into an angry ex worker of the mill (who may not have shared the same passion as we do for abandoned photography) any moment! Enjoy the photographs!
This medical centre located in Wellington, New Zealand suffered an extensive fire recently under suspicious circumstances, everything was still left here like the day of the fire. Inside it felt like the longer we stayed to document the place, the more odd medical supplies we found – needles, vaginal speculums and feces pots.
This building was originally the forensic’s unit of an abandoned lunatic asylum which closed for good in 2007.
The decay and mold were immense in this building, the place is falling apart. Nature has began taking over this place and it almost seems like there is more vegetation than structure left.
Throughout its years of operation the asylum has had many accounts of violent patients, patient abuse and treatments used such as electric shock treatment.
This hospitality square full of pubs, clubs and a real groovy music store in Christchurch was once a hub of entertainment. Since the 2011 earthquakes devastated the city this square has remained untouched and derelict while insurance claims are disputed.
Exploring the inside of the square I stumbled upon forgotten hipster clubs, lots of pigeon poop and endless amounts of decay and vandalism.
I have been following this row of shops for a while now – A funeral directors, Indian shop, Community centre and hairdressers, slowly watching the place fall to disrepair.
Now the time has come for demolition, soon will be an empty block of land to one day be redeveloped.
The cycle of abandonment and demolition continues and I wait for its next victim to document before they are forgotten forever, the old replaced by the new, history once again destroyed in Wellington, New Zealand.