Urbex” is the abbreviation of “urban exploration”. It can refer to the exploration of both active and abandoned artificial structures, generally those rarely seen by the average urban population. It is a hobby that involves a considerable risk of physical damage, arrests or assaults, as it often involves entering restricted areas. Photography, historical interest and documentation are the main reasons behind the hobby.
Commonly explored sites
Abandoned ruins are a major attraction for urban explorers, a category that can include amusement parks, factories, houses, bomb shelters, nursing homes, kindergartens, schools and power plants. The practice is commonly practiced in Japan due to the presence of many abandoned buildings (known in Japanese as “haikyo”). Many explorers are interested in documenting them through photographs or documentaries. The exploration of active buildings is also part of Urbex, which can be a risky undertaking because it involves reaching restricted areas. The areas of the building that are of interest include roofs, elevators, mechanical halls and abandoned floors. The catacombs are artificial underground passages used for religious practices and also rooms used as burial sites.
The exploration of sewers and storm drains is a dangerous practice that can lead to physical damage or even death. Sewers can contain harmful gases such as methane, which means that explorers must use gas masks. Storm discharges pose a risk due to sudden floods that can occur with unprecedented heavy rains. In Australia, there is a new group that explores sewers and gutters that are called cave clans.
The exploration of the transit tunnel involves the investigation of active or abandoned underground systems. In most countries, the practice is limited and these are trespassing that can be pursued. Utility tunnels are commonly found in large institutions such as universities and hospitals that use steam to heat buildings. Utility tunnels contain steam pipes that supply steam to buildings. The exploration of utility tunnels is risky due to high temperatures, respiratory dangers, poor lighting and sometimes accidental explosions of steam pipes.
Popularity of Urbex
The recent increased media attention has led to greater popularity of urban exploration and has been presented in various TV programs (Urban Explorers on Discovery Channel), films (horror films) and documentaries. Due to the growing popularity, there is a growing focus on urban exploration that has raised concerns among property owners. Some people who claim to be urban explorers take this opportunity to steal some property, even if this is strictly against the unwritten rules of urban exploration.
Most places visited during urban exploration are limited, which means that explorers are trespassing and could be prosecuted.