Next in line to be featured within the Art of Brick series is Attila Deák, who is the Workgroup Leader of the Animation team at Brick. As a qualified architect and production manager, he has participated in creating about 100+ animations, game trailers, ads, and feature movies. When he is not involved in creating visuals in motion and managing his team, he explores the world as a particular type of traveler – an urban explorer. This article shows the world through his lens, uncovering stories beneath the decay.
The Urbex Club
Urban explorers or urbexers are a group of ruin enthusiasts who venture into secluded and empty buildings to experience and photograph the melancholic beauty of the abandoned. Attila, who has been intrigued by deserted constructions since the age of 9, is the founder of The Urbex Club, an online platform dedicated to urbex travels. The site documents the highlights of the silent worlds he has been to over the past 20 years – warehouses, villas, hospitality and cultural venues among others, scattered across 40 countries.
‘In a way, this is an extreme hobby because most of the properties I visit are difficult to find and access. Once I’m there, I follow a set of unwritten rules – the ethos of the urbex community is that you don’t share the whereabouts of the site with anyone, as that would attract vandals or thieves who would strip the building of its values. You don’t move or take any objects either, or arrange the scene for a photo – you are only a spectator who captures what is there to see.’
A staircase of a Ghost Hotel in the mountains of Bali, Indonesia
Attila does extensive research before embarking on an expedition. He spends long hours examining urbex forums, Facebook, Instagram feeds, Google satellite maps, and books to find leads for interesting locations. These are only bits of information, so he has to be observant of the background, surrounding environment, and clues that give away at least the country of the site. After he connects the dots and identifies the place, he adds it to his private urbex map on Google (below). Whenever he travels the world, he uses this as his guide and makes stops along the way.
The list is ever-expanding
Is the ruin still there? Is the area protected? He tries to find out from forums but at times he just has to see for himself. Other times, he asks whether he can enter a building but he hits the wall, literally and figuratively – he is denied access without any reason. If he is lucky, he gets in, sets up his camera, and starts taking thousands of photos that represent the most characteristic views of the place.
The city of Pripyat has spent decades returning to nature
He edits his photo selection, writes the blog entry for The Urbex Club in which he summarizes his findings, and rates the project on a 4-star scale, which indicates how much the place can offer an urbexer. Interesting to note that during the editing process, he enhances the color settings of the images with his own filters to create a cross-balanced color grading composition that would attract more attention.
‘The color scheme of the original photos are rather nondescript – I go a bit overboard when editing them to create a more exceptional image. This way when I post these works to the blog and social media, I get more engagement (likes, comments, shares) and visibility. The more people I reach the better because the stories that accompany the images are incomplete – I need the online community’s input to get more details about the history of the place.’
This is perhaps the most interesting part of the project – to construct the narrative collectively. What was the building used for? Who owned it? Why did it become deserted? Often people who are closely linked to the site chime in with personal stories or observations.
An abandoned coal mine in Hungary
Inota Thermal Power Plant, Hungary
A professional acquaintance notified Attila that the power plant of Inota (cover image) would be demolished, a place he had had on his Hungarian urbex bucket list for years. There was no time to spare – he rushed to the site as soon as he could to capture the essence of the ruin. Not only is this location interesting for urbexers but also for cinephiles – some scenes of Blade Runner 2049 had been filmed here. His composition evokes a frame from the film but by adding a slight tilt and greenish hues, he created his own, more futuristic take on the sight.
A popular destination for urbexers in a German holiday village
Arzt Villa, Germany
The Arzt villa was a promising lead to explore from the onset. Attila had found hints of the location on Facebook among the comments, but he had to wait 2-3 years to be able to pinpoint exactly where to find the mansion. Once the property of a doctor, the building consists of many intriguing spaces and objects, like surgery with test tubes and various medical equipment, and a library replete with books (above). The most interesting piece is the grand piano (below) which is worth a couple of thousand Euros, still in good condition. Owing to the spooky charm and relatively intact fixtures of the villa, the place became known as the ‘museum of German urbexers’ – they have even placed a visitors’ book there to record the evidence of their visit. Sadly, fame has taken its toll on the mansion – several objects such as formaldehyde bottles with animal remains have been stolen from the surgery.
It is feared that this magnificent villa will be more and more exposed to thieves and vandals
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine
The desire to be outside the regular limits and walk where others do not dare perhaps becomes most evident through the Chernobyl journey. Attila and his group specifically asked their local guides to take them on a route that is private, dangerous and least traveled. The regularly organized Chernobyl trips include 3-4 sites at best, but Attila and his team managed to visit 15 different places in Pripyat. What captivated him the most was a standby storage facility behind the primary school. Sealed wooden boxes containing brand new gas masks are scattered here, all but one untouched. Vandalism caused that one box to reveal its content – pairs of sightless eyes and snaking tubes, the legacy of a political system and major catastrophe.
One has to adhere to a long list of regulations when visiting the disaster-stricken area
According to Attila, despite the fact that many sites become available to visit, the list containing abandoned places to be explored never runs out, on the contrary – it rapidly grows. His greatest desire is to involve more active members – amateur or professional photographers, vloggers – in The Urbex Club, to build a strong community who are passionate about this extreme hobby, and to continue preserving the memory of forgotten buildings.