There’s something inherently beautiful about abandoned greenhouses. They symbolise the eternal battle between man and nature, with man trying to shape nature to suit its needs and nature fighting back to restore an equilibrium. They’re also a snapshot in time; ten years earlier, they were fully operational. Ten years from now, they’ll be nothing but a pile of broken glass and metal struts poking out of a forest of foliage.
You can find beauty anywhere, from graffiti to architecture and works of art. On top of that, beauty is subjective, and different people enjoy different aesthetics and find different things beautiful. A mechanic sees beauty in a car’s engine, a poet sees beauty in the first falling leaves of the fall and a mother sees beauty in her child, even when it’s time for a diaper change.
Still, we think that you’ll be able to appreciate the beauty of these abandoned greenhouses, and not just because they were shot by talented photographers with decent equipment. There’s something about the clash between the natural world and the man-made world that makes for stunning visuals that will take your breath away. Don’t believe us? Read on…
When we’re talking about abandoned greenhouses, we’re not talking about run-down little sheds at the bottom of people’s gardens. We’re talking about the big industrial complexes where plants are grown and nurtured at a huge scale. The Eden Project, the world’s biggest greenhouse, covers 3.9 acres, which is about the same as three US football fields and which houses over a million different types of plants.
The one shown above is nowhere near the size of The Eden Project, but it does a pretty good job of showing the scale at which these structures tend to operate. It was shot in Atlanta by Nick Harris and has attracted attention from around the world, with one commenter called Tallulah saying, “Real nature will take over this greenhouse in a few years. Neat shot!”
But to be able to photograph these scenes requires you to find them in the first place, and believe it or not there’s no such thing as a Yelp or a Google Maps for abandoned buildings. That brings us on to the topic of urban exploration. “There are entire modern abandoned cities dotting the planet,” says Josh Clark in an article for How Stuff Works. “In some places, new town quarters are built on top of old ones. Abandoned buildings that may make some shudder with the creeps offer invitations of exploration to others. These people are called urban explorers.
The shot shown above was captured by Italian urban explorer Alessio Di Leo, who shot a full photo album of an abandoned greenhouse complete with everything from discarded plant pots and broken hoses to industrial fans and expansive glass ceilings. With abandoned greenhouses, it’s usually the glass that’s the first to go, but Di Leo was lucky enough to capture the facility before nature reclaimed it completely. Still, these aerial shots from Di Leo’s DJI Inspire show that the roofs are already starting to give out, and they also give you a sense of how the flora and fauna around the facility are beginning to reclaim it. From the air, it’s easier to comprehend just how big these facilities are, but it’s from the ground that their beauty is the most apparent.
These next two shots are by Massachusetts-based photographer Liza, who came across this facility in Cambridge and shot it on her Canon EOS 5D. Another Lisa, Flickr user Lisa Matthew, said, “I rode by this place on the bike path and was interested to see nature taking over what once housed nature. I find it a bit ironic, as well! Thanks for giving me a better view via your photos!”
The interesting thing about Liza’s photos is that as well as showing nature vs. nurture, the photo below also includes a human being for perspective. Far from feeling like a natural part of the composition, as they would have been if Liza had visited the facility in its heyday, this human touch feels strangely alien, like an interloper. Matthews said it was ironic to see nature take over what once housed nature; it’s also ironic that man reclaimed the area from nature, lost it again and then returned once more as a stranger.
Many agricultural pundits are saying that the future of farming is indoor and vertical farming, two techniques that allow us to make the most of the space that we have access to. This is more important than ever in a world in which we’re facing ever-diminishing resources. We’re not about to run out of space to live in, but space in urban areas will continue to be at a premium. Indoor and vertical farming could allow us to take abandoned buildings and to turn them into functioning greenhouses. How’s that for irony?
Exploring an abandoned greenhouse can be a lot of fun, but it can also be physically challenging and often risky. Be sure to take some time to familiarise yourself with local laws and to make sure that you’re not breaking them. There are grey areas when it comes to urban exploration, and if you can then it’s a good idea to reach out to the property’s owners and to get permission if you plan to visit.
You’ll also want to make sure that you don’t go alone and that there’s always someone back at home who knows where you’re going. Many of these abandoned facilities are located outside of city limits in areas with limited-to-no cell phone coverage. If something goes wrong, even if you just sprain your ankle, you’re going to struggle to make it back to the city.
On the plus side, there’s no real need to go out there and to hunt down abandoned greenhouses in the real world when you have the internet at your disposal. From Flickr and Instagram to Pinterest and Google Earth, you can experience some of the most beautiful abandoned greenhouses in the world without ever having to leave the house. And if you’re feeling more adventurous then that’s okay, too. Happy exploring!