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.
A return and a farewell to this heritage-listed maternity hospital and it’s sprawling arts and crafts 1920’s styled grounds. Demolition machines arrived at the former Maternity Hospital on Nov 30th (2020)- the 1927 building was rubble by the afternoon. Heritage NZ confirmed they had not been aware of the coming demolition and were “saddened to hear” that this important part of New Zealand’s medical and social history had been demolished.
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.
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.
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.
The current temporary closure of this commercialised geothermal area in the North Island of New Zealand allowed us to capture nature steadily continuing its activity in the peaceful absence of human occupation. According to Māori legend, New Zealand’s geothermal areas were created by two ember-bearing travellers – not on the sea, but through the earth. The two sisters of ocean navigator Ngātoro-i-rangi heard his call for their help from the midst of a blizzard at Mount Tongariro. They loaded six kete baskets with glowing embers and summoned Te Pupu and Te Hoata – the subterranean goddesses of fire – to deliver them to their imperilled brother. The goddesses dived deep into the earth and carried the baskets of heat from Hawaiiki (the Polynesian homeland) to Aotearoa. Each time the goddesses surfaced on their voyage they left a trail of embers, creating geothermal sites at Whakaari (White Island), Moutohorā (Whale Island), Rotoiti, Tarawera, Rotorua, Ōrākei Korako, Wairakei and Tokaanu. By the time they reached Ngātoro-i-rangi at Ketetahi, Tongariro, only one kete of fire remained to save his life.
We found this broken time capsule of creativity temporarily parked on the edge of a highway awaiting its inevitable and imminent collapse. A book on surrealist photography set the tone for the video edit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This large (by NZ standards) purpose built former tertiary institute expired at around the same time this Kodak Ektar 64T film did. And just like this 35mm expired film, it is apparently getting another lease of life. There are new owners and supposedly new occupants- but the only life we saw were some homies running their dogs (who tried to have a go at us); an alleged owner who asked what we were taking photos of (selfies of course) & told us to leave; and an elderly security guard who said- just leave. One of UC have a particular connection to this place, having kind of studied (sic) here when it was still a place of education- not stagnation.