What is UrbEx ?


Urban exploration (aka UrbEx or UE) consists in discovering and exploring man-made buildings or structures that have been abandoned or are kept secret or forbidden.


     Urbex has multiple purposes : first, the basic exploration of these places, just for the fun of (re)discovering them as they were left or conceived. Forbidden or abandoned and most of the time in a serious state of dereliction as they are, these places are hard to locate, rarely mentioned on a map, which gives the explorer the exciting extra-task of exerting patience and sagacity to find them or how to infiltrate them. This activity also refers to the exploration of sewers and storm drains, roof, tunnel and building hacking, urban caving...


     More commonly, the "urbexer" generally doubles as a photographer and adopts either a journalistic approach, with a view to document the existence or disappearance of such and such piece of architectural or industrial heritage, thereby producing a genuine photo report during the explore, or a rather artistic one, being more interested in the "photo-graphic" character of the scenes. 




      Urbex is intrinsically illegal and incurs multiple risks :

- legal : infiltration (entering a private or public property unauthorized) with or without breaking is punishable.

- physical : derelict places are subject to collapsing. Stones, wooden stairs, rafters or entire floors will fall or yield. Common sense rules...

- sanitary : a lot of old buildings are still packed with asbestos. And depending on the nature of the place visited, the explorer may come in contact with toxic gas or explosives, and even radioactive material on extreme sites.

- other : bad encounters happen too : a nosy and fully armed neighbor, watchdogs, security guards, police, dropouts...


     On an visit, I am always on the lookout for thieves, who can get violent if caught red-handed. But the arch enemy of an explorer is a tagger. Tagging and vandalism really are a plague to urbexers and to the places they visit and respect.


     The implicit rules are : never go on your own, never break and enter, never steal or deteriorate, never give out your sources or spots (too much...) in order to limit further deterioration of the site by numerous visits or more tagging. The explorer must be a draft of air : enter, visit, photograph then vanish. I try and go by these rules all the time. I have never broken a window, picked a lock or broken a door. Most of the time, there IS a weak point somewhere that will allow me to get in the clean way. I may move an object, open a door for a better shot, add some lighting here and there when it's too dark, but nothing else. The place is and must stay a sanctuary.


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  • SOnia nick Laiba


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