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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Industry - Part II

Abandoned Hudepohl Brewery, Cincinnati, Ohio
The remnants of the abandoned Hudepohl Brewery in Cincinnati, Ohio

While the first post on abandoned industry focused on the physical and existential aspects of abandonment, this post will focus on the abstract, but very real reasons that a growing group of photographers and modern “explorers” have taken to the streets, ghettos, tunnels, and ruins of urban places all over the world… There is an aesthetic to ruin that cannot be matched. In hindsight, it is ruin and decay that give life to architecture by illustrating vulnerability.

This post contains an example to illustrate the previous point. The Hudepohl Brewery in Queensgate (just west of downtown Cincinnati) sits empty today, and was partially demolished during a stalled renovation attempt. What is left today is a fragmented shell of a once major consolidated brewing operation. The remains crumble and fall into the surrounding yard and street, as the city staples a monthly “public nuisance” violation on the door.

Abandoned Hudepohl Brewery, Cincinnati, Ohio
The remnants of the abandoned Hudepohl Brewery as seen from atop the partially demolished building.

This example serves to illustrate one of the few major reasons industrial infrastructure becomes abandoned. Hudepohl was a company that failed, leaving behind a functioning, usable building. The building itself, the location, and other social reasons were not a cause for the architectural problem that was created, thus making it potentially much easier to resolve. The remains of today, however, are nothing but decaying architecture slowly slipping into an unsalvageable state.

Abandoned Hudepohl Brewery, Cincinnati, Ohio
The trashed and open to the elements interior of the abandoned Hudepohl Brewery.

It is important to view the Hudepohl Brewery as an example of what not to do. The building always had the potential to function, even after it had become abandoned. That potential was squandered rather than utilized. The brewery could have been reoccupied and utilized in some form of its capacity, rather than emptying and falling apart. The photos of Hudepohl’s current conditions show that the building is nearing the point of being unsalvageable. Given the current economic climate, this fate seems likely, and a great building may be lost for the simple reason that it is never considered.

Abandoned Hudepohl Brewery, Cincinnati, Ohio Abandoned Hudepohl Brewery, Cincinnati, Ohio
The "Hudepohl" smokestack still stands as a Cincinnati landmark (left); Some of the unsalvaged brewing equipment that remains inside the abandoned Hudepohl Brewery (right).

Peoples of the past have allowed great works of architecture to fall into decay, and only the greatest are in a “controlled” state (places like the Pyramids at Giza, the Coliseum of Rome, etc.). As the culture and economy of people change, so too does the architecture.

The current economic situation is related to a surplus of housing and false value (to what degree is debatable). This dampens the plausibility of the common successful remedy to abandoned industrial architecture observed in the Northeast and Europe, where lofts and condos fill outdated manufacturing districts, and young professionals and hipsters fill the buildings that can no longer serve any other economically viable function. These solutions may not work in places where regional housing is in no shortage. Even if cities begin to reverse trend and re-densify, it may be 100 years before a place like Queensgate (per this example) serves the necessity of providing housing.

Perhaps a conclusion is that we should not be trying to remedy these situations. Rather, we should seek to control the failure and decay, and allow the constantly changing nature of human wants and needs to take their course. Will chunks of neighborhoods slowly fall apart until nothing but ruin remains?

Cincinnati Skyline from the Hudepohl Brewery
The view of the Queen City from the roof of the Hudepohl Brewery.

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