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Industrial silence and the solace in decay

Posted by Jonathan Castellino / June 19, 2011

industrial ruins TorontoSilence is not an attribute one would usually ascribe to urban life. Unlike the typical clamour which seems all too abundant in the life of a city, silence seems to require an active search on our part, if we are to unearth it here. Within the post-industrial built environment, I tend to find the greatest quiet in places which, ironically, once created the greatest noise. Whether factories, power-stations, or processing plants, all of the places depicted in this photo series reveal workplaces long-devoid of their employees; trapped in the silent space between activity and redevelopment (or, sadly, demolition), they bear witness to a past made present by their remnants, while quietly awaiting their fate.

Industrial decayThe remaining silos from the Victory Soya Mills, pictured below, have sat for years awaiting redevelopment...
industrial ruinsMachinery at an abandoned Flintkote asbestos factory slowly fades...
industrial ruinsindustrial ruinsEmpty bottles sit on shelves at a decommissioned glass factory in Toronto's west end...
industrial ruinsDestroyed computer equipment scatters one of many floors at an old electronics facility...
industrial ruinsDesolate washrooms at an abandoned incinerator on Wellington...
industrial ruinsindustrial ruinsIll-fated wildlife found in an abandoned automotive plant in Toronto's junction area...
Industrial DecayOccasionally, silence is broken by one of our sojourners, Jamie Thompson of the Urban Flute Project. In the following snap, he began to play his instrument in the middle of the ruins of a Metal Tech plant, west of the city...
industrial ruins

industrial ruins

industrial ruins

industrial ruinsA leaning water tower reminds me that a factory once stood here...
industrial ruins torontoindustrial ruinsSilence is once again broken, this time by a small fire at the remaining building of Toronto's Kodak plant...
industrial ruinsThe sounds of nature creep over the ruins of an old paper mill north of Toronto...
Industrial ruins torontoA worker's boot remains at an old meat processing plant in west Toronto...
industrial ruins

Some last notes in an office at the Bunge plant, now demolished...
industrial ruins

I take one last look over the pre-ruins of the Hearn plant, before making a hasty exit...
industrial ruinsJust as in music, where pregnant spaces between the notes has equal power to move the listener, it is the industrial decay, the space between activity and redevelopment, in which I find beauty. This gap allows me to enter into, and project my own imagination onto a piece of history in places where I would otherwise feel unwelcome.

Noise has the tendency to force itself upon you, yet silence tends to draw you in. There is a profound strength in the silence of decay, where we are able to watch nature's slow riot. While I tend to view these entropic spaces as dark playgrounds, I cannot help but recall that these were the buildings which played a large part in creating the city as we know it, and have now merely been left by its wayside.

"The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence
...
Where is the Life we have lost in living?"

(T.S. Eliot)

(To see the rest of the photo-series, as well as hi-res versions of those pictured above, you can visit my Flickr slide-show below.)

Discussion

3 Comments

rick mcginnis / June 20, 2011 at 01:45 pm
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I'm amazed the Kodak building is still standing. I've been thinking about taking another trip there, but it might be too heartbreaking. It must be even more wrecked than when I went two summers ago.

Beautiful photos, Jonathan.
Debbie Nazareth / June 21, 2011 at 01:34 pm
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Congratulations, Jonathan. Fantastic photographs...but I'm equally impressed by the narrative. I had no idea you were such an accomplished writer as well. Thanks for sharing these with us.
Bruce Bell / June 27, 2011 at 04:16 pm
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Jonathan, your photographs of the abandoned bank at 197 Yonge (next door to the Elgin Winter Garden Theatre) are absolutely breathtaking, some of the finest I have ever seen. How can I get permission to reprint one of them in an article I am writing on the abandoned banks of Yonge Street?

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