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The Urban Explorer: Uncovering Hidden Gems in the World’s Cities

The Urban Explorer: Uncovering Hidden Gems in the World’s Cities

By germana

You are aware of the enticement of ruins if you are one of the 50,000 participants in this year’s Open House Melbourne series who crossed prohibited thresholds and explored abandoned locations. Not the Colosseum variety, which evokes images of bygone eras, but the urban structure that vanishes before your eyes.

It extends beyond Melbourne. Images of abandoned Soviet power plants, overgrown Japanese theme parks, human-free prisons, asylums, and hospitals can be found all over the internet. The haunting ruins in the entire world. Photos of hauntingly vacant houses. Modern-day ghost towns. Bradley Garrett, an academic and urban explorer, understands why so many people will click on those links.

People are taking those pictures because they are aware that something is missing from their lives. They click on these pictures believing that they are interested in the aesthetics of decay; however, the experience of the explorer who took the picture is what they are actually interested in. Who is this individual? Why did they carry this out? Who would sleep in an abandoned building? Who would carry a $3000 camera around in a location where it is extremely likely that the camera will be stolen?

Try a hair salon in Melbourne. an ex-advertising executive from Belgium. a travel writer from England who enjoys taking risks. Garrett has a term for those who discover previously undiscovered areas of our urban landscape: place-hackers’’. He will soon be in Australia to give a talk about his book Explore Everything at the Melbourne Writers Festival. This lavish book is filled with color photos of the many abandoned office buildings, skeletal construction sites, and eerie subway stations he found while researching the phenomenon of urban exploration.

Metropolitan investigation (otherwise called UrbEx) is a trick all term depicting the investigation of man-made structures that are typically disregarded or untouchable. Modern ruins, construction sites, tunnels, and sewers are examples of these. Practitioners range from parkour enthusiasts looking for new athletic playgrounds to graffiti artists looking for their next concrete canvas. They also include historians and geographers who take an in-depth look at the inner workings of a city as well as people who have always had the urge to peek inside that vacant house at the end of the street.

Garrett began his career as a traditional archaeologist. I was investing all of my energy in a real sense uncovering history,” he says. 

UrbEx appeared to provide a different option. I only wanted to see ruins when I started urban exploration. I wanted to find histories that I could feel, histories that were being defined by people in the area rather than by experts. I was attempting to give up my authority as an expert. Structures aren’t intended to be ruins. We are such a minor component of this fragile ecosystem as a whole.

Belgian “Tom” left his London advertising job to explore these dying places. He was in Melbourne recently to shoot another installment of his Last Breath video series. In this one, he goes into a building that will soon be demolished and gets local artists to create one last flourish of beauty there.

He states, “It’s the idea that it’s the last moment of something.” I like to think of it in terms of a family member who is terminally ill. If you know that person will pass away in three months, those three months become extremely significant to you, and your relationship with that person grows stronger. Naturally, I won’t say it’s to the same extent as a person, but going to a place and knowing it will disappear does have some intensity.

Darmon Richter is a Bulgaria-based English freelance photographer and writer. His extreme adventures in urban exploration are documented on his website, Even Chernobyl after the meltdown feels too… touristy to seasoned explorers like Richter due to the abundance of ruin photographs. His urge to investigate has led him to rooftops in Kosovo, a nuclear power plant in Cuba that is only partially operational, and subway lines in North Korea.

I find the experience of walking through uncharted tunnels with no idea where they lead or what lies around the next corner to be infinitely fascinating.

He also enjoys Melbourne. In England there’s a misinterpretation that Australia is without any trace of history.  Even though Australia’s colonial past doesn’t go back very far, the bits and pieces that do exist are truly fascinating and have often been beautifully preserved. I looked into schools, breweries, asylums, prisons, and Victorian-era infrastructure like the city’s extensive storm drain network while I was in Melbourne.

In case it hasn’t been made abundantly clear, UrbEx is a place where the legality, ethics, and politics can all be as muddled as a sewer. Although some of my deeds have crossed the line into questionable legal territory, I never intended to break the law for the sake of breaking it,” asserts Richter. I’m not there to steal, vandalize, or loot anything. I have never taken anything with me, and I have never broken into a location.