Throughout history shifting economies, disasters, regime changes, and utter incompetence have all caused the evacuation of impressive architectural structures. From the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine that rendered a region of the then-Soviet Union uninhabitable, to the decline in public transport that saw a number of US train stations becoming superfluous, the history of architectural abandonment touches all cultures. And, without regular maintenance, structures deteriorate, leaving behind no more than awe-inspiring ghosts of the past to fuel the ever-growing internet trend for “ruin porn.” Below are 8 abandoned buildings slowly being reclaimed by nature:
1. Buzludzha, Bulgaria
Nicknamed “Bulgaria’s UFO,” this brutalist saucer-shaped monument to communism was erected by the Bulgarian Army between 1974 and 1981. The domed structure held a large seating area that served as a venue for celebrations and state functions. Additionally, the room’s interior was slathered in murals that celebrated Marx and Lenin. After the communist party helmed by Todor Zhivkov fell in 1989, the building fell into disrepair. Although the structure still stands, the constant freeze-thaw cycles of Eastern Europe have caused large holes to form in the roof. Both restoration and demolition are too conflicting to undertake, so the building continues to wither away on the mountaintop.
2. Hashima Island, Japan
Hashima Island is a small but dense coal mining development 9 miles (14 kilometers) off the coast of Nagasaki that in 1959 housed 5,200 people, mostly coal miners and their families. But as Japan’s rapid industrialization shifted from coal to petroleum during the latter half of the 20th century, the demand for miners quickly fell as coal reserves were exhausted. By 1974 work in the mines had ceased and Hashima was abandoned shortly after.
3. Maunsell Sea Forts, United Kingdom
In order to defend the British Isles from the formidable German Luftwaffe, civil engineer Guy Maunsell proposed taking the fight to the sea. This idea played out in a series of anti-aircraft sentry towers held together by a series of catwalks a few miles off of the mainland in the Thames Estuary. Built in 1942 and decommissioned a decade later, the sea forts had a relatively short but crucial service. Although the project was officially left to rust in 1958, the sea forts were briefly used to broadcast rogue, uncensored pirate radio broadcasts in the late 1960s.
4. Pripyat Amusement Park, Ukraine
May 1, 1986 was supposed to be a jubilant national holiday for the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, “May Day” was preceded by the meltdown of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26th—less than a week before Pripyat’s new amusement park was planned to open. The town was vacated and the radioactive Ferris wheel never served a patron. 31 years later it still stands rusted, overgrown, and frozen in time.
5. Canfranc Rail Station, Spain
In 1928, the Canfranc International Railway Station was the largest rail station in Europe, serving as a crucial connection between Spain and France for nearly half a century. The station was extensively used as the set for the 1965 film Doctor Zhivago. Alas, in 1970 a train derailed and destroyed an approaching bridge on the French approach to the station, rendering the terminal useless. Despite the current dilapidated condition of the station itself, Canfranc’s subterranean train tunnels have remained useful. In 2006 Spanish physicists opened the Canfranc Underground Astroparticle Laboratory under the existing station. The cool tunnel environment and existing movable train tracks provide an oddly apt lab space.
6. Michigan Central Station, United States
This grand Beaux Arts train station, hotel, and office tower opened in 1914 as the tallest train station in the world. As the motor city entered its golden age, Detroit’s rail industry began to falter. Through the 1960s and 1970s, the site was engulfed by interstates, and the station kept losing profitable lines. In 1988 the final Amtrak train left the station marking the end of the building’s service as a passenger station; in 2000, the building resumed service as a freight train station, but this only lasted until 2004, and the station has been abandoned ever since. In spite of the building’s uncertain future, the current owners of Michigan Central Station recently completed an initiative to replace the building’s windows.
7. Sanzhi Pod Houses, Taiwan
The Sanzhi Pod Houses were initially envisioned as a playful series of modular vacation houses just outside of New Taipei, Taiwan. The project was marred from its start—construction began in 1978 and was perpetually over budget and behind schedule. The houses were deemed “haunted” by the public as a number of workers on site died shortly after opening. The forward-thinking pods were never continuously occupied and were unceremoniously demolished in 2008.
8. Buffalo Central Terminal, United States
It’s little surprise that the list includes another art deco rust belt train station. Buffalo Central Terminal opened in 1929 and served up to 200 daily trains during the city’s heyday. As manufacturing was continuously outsourced, and automobiles became ever more popular the station was forced to fold in 1979. For years the building was left to wither until recently when the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation purchased the terminal. They intend to restore the station to its former glory—an endeavor as daunting as it is admirable.