The Canvas (Devil’s Mountain I)

One of the concise views one can have of Berlin these days is from the top of the Devil’s Mountain (Teufelsberg), the artificial hill that consists of rubble from the ruins of World War II.

The conciseness decreases when stepping back, inside the structures on top of the former US listening station from the Cold War.

So we enter a place of fascinating decay and devastation that has become in its entirety a canvas.

The ruin as a design pattern for our self seems an aporia, but not so: as in many paradoxa, there is synthesis.

Descending further we witness that light and dark not only coexist, they require each other,

and they require a canvas.

The Dark Tower (Columbia Mine Preserve II)

After looking at the mining facility near the Columbia Mine Preserve from the outside last week, now it’s time to step inside.

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This is already the second floor, from a total of six. Thanks to the broken windows, the wind has done a decent job cleaning the place.

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Moving up. This feels like one of these dungeon computer games where you have to deal with cute monsters on the way up (or down). I am pretty sure I know where the undead from the three (!) cemeteries I passed on the way spend their free nights.

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Further up. It also reminds me of Snakes and Ladders. One misstep, and you have to start climbing all over again, if you can.

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The eeriest part of the place is the sound. Birds have conquered it, and the sounds they make are surprisingly close to human chatter. Maybe this place is some sort of temple for them.

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It also feels like I am an exploring some alien space ship. I have absolutely no clue what these enormous machines were used for. 

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Not only birds have left their stains. Monsters, undead, animals, aliens — what do we fear most?

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Down again, unharmed. Two decades ago, this place was busy with people who worked there. Where are they now, what are their stories?

Come in Without Knocking (Columbia Mine Preserve I)

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Spring last year, on my way back from New Harmony, I made a small detour to the Columbia Mine Preserve. The Vigo Coal Company mined the area in the 1990, then filled the holes, and let it sit. The Sycamore Land Trust acquired the area, turned it into a nature preserve, which is now part of Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge.

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Last year the early warm weather didn’t encourage any good pictures, so I decided to return a bit earlier, to catch the gloomy Indiana winter. When I entered Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge into my GPS, it took me to a dead end just outside the refuge, but I passed this wonderful relic on the way.

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About six floors tall, this structure was apparently used to do something to the coal before it was used to enrich our atmosphere with carbon dioxide.

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I am also clueless about the purpose of this truck, and why it looks so unhappy.

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This time, the door was missing, so again I couldn’t resist the temptation. There was quite a bit to explore inside, so I leave this as a teaser for next week:

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At Church

A couple of years back, a photographer friend of mine and myself checked out a small abandoned industrial zone in the periphery of Bloomington. We went there on a frosty Sunday morning and likened the experience very much to going to church.

Large storage buildings now serve as meeting halls for lost souls,

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piles of card board provide a scripture without words,

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stained glass windows tell stories of distant suffering,

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unused screws (not nails) draw like grass in the sand,

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and the mandatory relic doesn’t promise any hope.

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The place now has been demolished. Too bad.

Woolery Limestone Mill

Large enclosed spaces are awe inspiring. Empty caves, cathedrals, or theater halls challenge our sense of proportion: We do not dare to enter a building alone that is too large. One way to safely confront large enclosed spaces is as a group of people. Albert Speer’s architecture in the 3rd Reich exploited this: Only by following the mass of people you became strong enough to bear his enormous buildings.

Another way is to wait until decay has lessened the overwhelming power of magnitude. Large industrial ruins have lost their threat, but have acquired a morbid charm — the stone age excitement to see a mammoth die.

A (for me) local example of this is the Woolery Limestone Mill.

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It is not completely dysfunctional, recent uses include beer festivals and weddings. There is even talk about converting the historical building into a hotel or into luxury appartments.

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It would be an interesting challenge to build a hotel with all comfort where the rooms appear to have broken windows, the carpet looks like it is a floor full of glass shards, and the wall decorations are freshly sprayed graffiti.

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I am sure this would become a major attraction beyond the common midwestern taste.

In its current state, the former mill has considerable structural attractions. The play of light and shadow on the rusty steel beams looks like the score of a contemporary composition. I would like to experience Xenakis’ Kraanerg performed here.

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Corners at the ceiling create the illusion of an abstraction that only exists because of the simplicity of the open space.

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And, almost paradoxical in a building consisting entirely of straight lines, the existence of curved shadows makes one wonder about the nature of space itself.

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Then, of course, there are the remainders of former human occupation. Once, this glove was worn.

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