Canadian Consulting Engineer

Urban Exploration

Unlike taggers, who spray graffiti on walls, bridges and abutments, urban explorers leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photographs.

October 1, 2007   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Unlike taggers, who spray graffiti on walls, bridges and abutments, urban explorers leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photographs.

The late Jeff Chapman, who wrote and explored under the name Ninjalicious, defined urban exploration as “seeking out, visiting and documenting interesting human-made spaces, most typically abandoned buildings.”1 Sites might be disused factories, decommissioned electric generating stations, abandoned steel plants, sawmills, prisons and train stations.

One might expect urban exploration would be a natural hobby for engineers, but many urban explorers are artists or photographers. Their work is appearing in art shows, galleries, and private collections, as well as on the internet.

Sean Galbraith, an urban explorer and “urban planner by trade” who lives in Toronto has a great love of cities and urban development. He explores and takes photographs to “present honest and accurate representations of what cities mean and what makes them beautiful.” He finds beauty in what he calls “urban architectural decay.” His large-scale photographs reveal his fascination with the interplay of light, machinery, and structural elements in huge spaces.

Marcel Proust once said: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Photographers like Galbraith help us to see the beauty in urban landscapes and our technological heritage. They record the places where engineers, builders and workers have left their marks, marks that time is slowly erasing. CCE

Norman Ball is a Toronto a professor at the University of Waterloo and an author. He is currently writing a book on the Niagara Parks Commission. E-mail nrball@istar.ca

1 Ninjalicious, “Access All Areas: A User’s Guide to the Art of Urban Exploration.” Infilpress, 2005, p. 4


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