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Abandoned Buildings And Forgotten Memories: Interviews With Urban Explorers


By Danny Weller

Photo:Urbex VLC


Poking your nose where it doesn’t belong and exploring where your parents told you not to is a time-honoured tradition amongst curious and rebellious kids. As a result, the exploits of young people exploring abandoned buildings have been a prominent feature of many TV shows and films. 


However, with the growth of social media, those who explore these buildings have begun to document their exploits and gained a massive following across social media platforms under the umbrella term URBEX. Some of the more successful urban explorers have made these their full-time jobs. Two Spanish urban explorers gave insights into their passion and why they felt it was worth doing. 


What made you start urban exploring?


Shuky: Like many others, I started visiting abandoned places at a very young age. Since childhood, I would find my way into these types of sites. My mother always liked going into abandoned buildings and is my role model for my passion for urban exploration. When I discovered that the URBEX world existed, I started on YouTube, posting photos of abandoned villages. This was about five years ago, and seeing a whole different world wrapped up in all of this, I decided to start as well.


URBEX VLC: In truth, exploration has attracted our attention since we were little kids, exploring forbidden things or places for the simple fact of getting an adrenaline rush or discovering places that could not be seen by any other means. As I got older and saw social media channels dedicated to this, I found that my interest in these abandoned places continued.


Why do you think it is essential to document these abandoned places?


Shuky: I believe these buildings are a part of our history, and we should never allow them to be lost. There are historical buildings under the protection of the state that have been wholly abandoned, buildings representing a different age; there are even buildings that have won prizes for architecture and have been used in films which are now destroyed. Inside many of these buildings are objects that could well be in museums. As a result, it is worth preserving, if not physically, then at least through photos or videos.


URBEX VLC: The new generations, or as some call them, “millennials”, don’t know much about the antiquities of our past. I’m 26, so I don’t discount myself as part of that generation. Still, thanks to urban exploration, I know about history, machines that I’d never seen before, and places that I would never have seen otherwise. Just as I soak this stuff up by exploring abandoned places, I like that others can learn about them through my photos and videos. For slightly older generations, you can transport them to different times simply with a photo or a short video, in that they can remember moments and feel nostalgia for these periods.


What have you seen during your explorations that have impacted you most significantly?


Shuky: One of the places that most impressed me was a warehouse/museum that was filled with Francoist objects; bottles of wine, medals, flags etc and also full of hunting equipment like trophies, animal heads, hunting clothes and even rifles


URBEX VLC: Perhaps the thing that affected me most was a grave pit from the civil war in the Guadassuar cemetery. I saw all those bones and clothing fragments covered in rubbish that people had thrown on top of them. I think that was the most impactful image I could have seen. 


What was your best exploration?


URBEX VLC: We explored an old gold mine from the 60s, and my eyes could not get enough of what I saw in there, machines, walls and floor plated with silver and gold pigments. I can’t quite describe the sensation of being in there.


Shuky: Now that I think about it, the best experience was the first house I found with a working piano. It was a mansion divided into two, and one half was abandoned, full of objects from the turn of the centuries, a coal-burning stove, furniture from the period and even a ceramic pipe. In Urbex, you can never steal what you find. You have to try and leave the place exactly as it was before you arrived there. That’s an essential rule in this world.


What problems have you encountered during your explorations?


Shuky: Well, in terms of problems, there’s been a bit of everything, cuts, bumps and falls, but thank God, nothing serious. We have also run into squatters who are by and largely friendly, but some drug addicts are pretty scary, especially ones we met in an abandoned ecovillage. He was so strange that he made us leave the place almost at a sprint. Also, there are thieves of every kind, and you never know how they will react.


URBEX VLC: The most common problem is running into settlers who don’t want you to be there and having to turn on your heel to avoid arguing. Another problem, of course, is the owners; although these places are abandoned, they always have an owner, whether that be the council or an individual, and there is always a risk that you’ll be seen, and someone will call the police


Although some see these individuals as trespassers who have no right to do what they do, they undoubtedly view themselves as an essential part of the historical record and preservers of cultural heritage.




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