Contemporary Art? Chair in Wall. Photo taken from an abandoned reception hall, near my home.
Last night, got me indulging in URBEX (Urban Exploration).
It’s been almost over a year since I last went on my last trip to do something similar, the previous one being an abandoned drainage tunnel far and away from my home.
This time, it was much closer, the first being literally 2 blocks away from my home, and a 10 minute drive in my car to the second location.
I’ve done enough of URBEX to be aware that if a place has been locked away for a good while (i.e. 3 months), people would have already gone and trashed the place.
Most importantly, they would have already created an entryway for people like me to get in.
The first location, which I will not reveal where it is exactly, for the sake of anonymity, was an abandoned Reception Hall, formerly owned by Chinese investors, who essentially used the place as a storage unit and then let it fall into disrepair and ruin.
Right in the middle of suburban Melbourne and an endless supply of curiosity for me.
I decided that enough was enough, with the COVID-19 restrictions lifting, and me being able to see my best mate again, we would celebrate us seeing each other by exploring the two spots I picked out.
So I got geared up. Heavy combat boots, dark navy cargo pants, a long sleeved Henley shirt and thick dark blue fleece. Beanie, and a neck gaiter to conceal my identity and help with any prevailing dust and particles in the air.
A small bag with all my EDC (Every Day Carry) needs, from tissues, to a multitool in case I need to free myself or cut something, and a tourniquet in case of any serious injuries. I packed my Pelican torches, two in case one went down (they are both very bright, at 500 lumens and 1000 lumens) and a monocular, so that I could scope out the place for cameras and security.
I packed my Ipod full of tense music, just to enhance the atmosphere of it all. Splinter Cell Blacklist, Blade Runner 2049, Deus Ex Human Revolution & Mankind Divided just to name a few.
Meeting my friend at night, we walked to the Reception Hall, and went round the back, where there was a well trodden pathway that the community used for bike riding.
Pushing our way through the bushes, we came across a hole in the fence, that led directly to the rear of the Reception Hall.
It had been temporary cyclone-fenced off, but I knew that there had to be a way in, because it had graffiti and mess everywhere. At the very edge, there wasn’t a block, so you could swing open the fence quiet easily.
Cautious about using our torches, because they were a dead giveaway and you could see them from the road, we stepped through the back door and entered the prep room, where there was broken glass and rubbish everywhere.
I honestly missed the crunch of broken glass beneath my boots.
It’s the sound of thrills, because you know what you are doing is illegal, but your curiosity and desire to explore trumps all of that.
It’s worth the risks, to finally quell the curiosity and to see parts of a building that were previously unknown.
To sum up, the place was a mess. There was a pile of shit close to the entryway we came in, graffiti was literally everywhere and broken glass from the window and ceiling was scattered everywhere.
The kitchen was an even bigger mess, with pipes and toilets and sinks smashed completely. Even more apparent was how cheap the whole place was. Lots of the walls were made of plaster and were smashed in, revealing hollow spaces and the ballroom floor, once made of beautiful wood panels, were now torn up to reveal concrete.
The stage was still intact however, and even featured a decrepit old, dusty lounge couch.
I didn’t sit on it.
For obvious reason.
Next to it, was the chair in the wall, and oddly, when we ventured closer to the entrance, we found a stack of chairs in a space that was oddly clean.
Even VIP cards from the place were placed atop the chairs.
My friend took one. As a memento.
Beyond the relatively small ballroom area, there wasn’t much to the place. As a reception hall, it was tiny by a lot of other standards, and didn’t have much to offer.
As a primer for our night though, it was good. Crawling out from the dense bushes and the small hole in the fence, we made our way back to my car and drove to another, much larger compound that was strangely next to a retirement village.
This place, looked a lot more formidable and was on a sizeable plot of land. It also had claims that it was protected by security, but the front fence had a gaping hole in it.
A former corporate headquarters, this compound had literally everything.
A basement that led to a giant maintenance area, with filing cabinets everywhere.
A ground floor that had a reception desk and a huge cafeteria.
An upper floor that led to another set of offices and staff conference rooms.
A laboratory with pneumatic machines and left over lab experiments.
A blueprint cabinet with all the floor plans to the entire compound, next to the abandoned generators.
Long strings of fire hoses, strewn everywhere.
A garage where deliveries were taken, where huge storage units had fallen over.
It had everything.
Graffiti was a lot more sparse too. Which meant this place hadn’t been taken over as much. But there were a lot more holes in the roof and the railings for a lot of the balconies had fallen away, leaving them bare and easy to fall off.
We spent over 2 hours there, treading on glass, envelopes, party decorations that were abandoned, manoeuvring our way past hundreds of desks, papers, CPUs, computers and filing cabinets.
It was eerie and incredible. I had never been through an office space like this before.
We both wondered about the people who worked there, who had spent time to decorate their office spaces. What sort of work went on in the labs, what use the machines were for.
There was ancient tech everywhere. Old fat PCs, floppy disks, CD-ROMs, even the decor felt old and 90s-esque.
Weirdly this was all right up till 2018, because we found 2018 newspapers left behind with a cup of old McDonalds coffee, in the basement.
Further research at home, meant that I discovered this place was shut down in 2017 and everyone had moved to a new location. The Chinese investors had done nothing with the place since.
A recurring tale.
Gotta thank the Chinese for these URBEX opportunities.
Throughout this whole compound, it was surrounded by people in their homes. We had to pause and freeze a few times, when we saw people on the couch, on their upper floor, watching TV.
We stayed low and moved quietly, staring through the monocular, hoping they didn’t spot us.
But we avoided torch light for a while, which made every step tense, careful not to slip and slam my hand on glass or trip on chairs or hoses.
We even got to access the roof, via a ladder.
Overall, it was amazing to fully explore this compound. It made the whole night experience utterly worth it. The moon was providing just enough light to see but was also dark enough to cast us into darkness without fearing visibility.
Afterwards, my friend and I discussed what we saw and we stood around our cars for hours on end, catching up.
I’m really glad I got to do this again. It’s a timely reminder that just because I feel a bit dull, a bit boring thanks to my work routine, it doesn’t take much for me to get that sense of fun, inspiration and thrills.
I just got to keep searching, keeping my eyes open and actually getting out there and doing it.
I’ll probably make a short story round this soon too.