When it comes to Beijing, most people envisage a metropolis with an ancient centre of alleyways and imperial architecture. And they’d be right, except, a short drive out to the city’s suburbs, abandoned factories lie dormant, vacated less than a decade ago. British urban explorer Brin, of Beijing Urbex, shares some photographs from his explorations.
Capital Steel (首钢)
Lying not far from the city centre in the south-west corner of Beijing’s 6th ring road is the former factory of Capital Steel, or Shougang, a state-owned steel plant that thrived in the 1990s. The plant moved before the 2008 Olympics, to neighbouring Hebei Province in order to ease the pollution in the capital, leaving behind a deserted shell that is as striking a site from the motorway, as it is a fascinating world from within.
Jutting pipes and towers galore, the image below shows a blast furnace at the central site of the former factory.
The words on the blast furnace below under the skull read ‘Be Careful; Toxic’, and the red characters say: ‘Coal gas district, do not linger here’.
Brin found himself climbing up the rusting ladders, nevertheless, and discovering interiors left in tatters.
The former site of Capital Steel in the Shijingshan suburbs of Beijing is an expanse of almost 9km² (3.5 mi.²) – nearly four times the size of the Olympic Park in London. At the factory’s peak in the 1990s, its level of production was at 10 million tonnes of steel and the plant employed more than 200,000 people.
On the inside of the blast furnace, Brin also found work rooms that once trembled with the grinding of heavy machinery cogs. The pipes below support the central furnace and are where the fuel for driving its combustion would have been fed into.
These distinct, left-behind quarters of Beijing tell us as much of a tale as the city that remains, says Brin. ‘As enthusiastic as the rest of the world maybe about the breakneck speed of China’s development, it is all a mirage,’ he added. ‘For Beijing to develop at this speed it has left a lot of waste in its wake; many have been left to rot, too rotten to complete, too expensive to demolish. Beijing has become an urban exploration paradise.’
Beijing Jiaohuachang (北京焦化厂)
At another end of town, on the south-east corner near the 5th ring road, is the dilapidated site of Beijing Coking Factory. Constructed mid-20th century, the factory formally halted operations in 2006, for similar reasons to that of Capital Steel.
Also known as The Chemical Works, ‘coking’ refers to the process whereby coke (not the white illegal powder) is produced from coal; it’s an ingredient essential in steel production.
Dried mud and dust coming in through the windows have caked the insides of many buildings on site, as is the case with this office space below.
In the big factory hall below, there still hangs a propaganda banner which reads: ‘Using even higher standards to preserve our cultured youths is our pride’.
Outside, one of the many giant hooks swings gently in the wind, creaking on this snowy day.