I love abandoned places. Ghost towns, decaying hospitals, former amusment parks. There’s something both beautiful and grotesque about a building that has been left behind, subject to the elements, with no humans to make repairs to it, care for it, live in it, that I can’t get out of my head. When I look at an abandoned place, I wonder about its history: who lived or worked there? What events led to its abandonment? Why did no one take over and rebuild? What’s keeping it from being rebuilt today (finances? location? hazardous materials?)? As I explore an abandoned building, my heart races and I can imagine myself as one of the people who used to inhabit the place. It’s a very human experience.
When I look at an abandoned building, I also see its potential for being rebuilt, repurposed, given new life. Buildings may be inanimate, but they always retain something of their previous inhabitants that makes you feel a little sad but also very excited. It’s really a creative wonderland for me.
As I’m doing research into abandoned places for Abandoned Places Month on PTV, I stumbled across this place, Nagasaki, Japan’s Gunkanjima, or “Battleship Island.” The abandoned former coal mining facility was the most densely populated place on the planet at 139,100 people per square kilometer, and still holds that record today. Imagine yourself as one of those hundreds of thousands of people crammed onto this island — just one of 500 abandoned islands off the coast of Japan — struggling to make your way. The conditions must have been horrifying. Today, the island is closed to the public, but a few images remain of this now decaying ghost town.
Next time you’re out and about, and you see an abandoned place, try to imagine who used to live or work there, why they left, and what might be there someday. You might be surprised at what you find.