Life on the land in Australia



CHINESE SLAUGHTERHOUSE 1933 IMAGE www.ozrural.com.au

Once one of the largest slaughterhouse in the East, this poured concrete building is a study in a strange Escheresque beauty.

Built in 1933 in pre-Communist Shanghai, the four story building was designed by British architects, and built by Chinese developers with British concrete. Today the building is an eerie Gotham-deco achievement in concrete, glass, and steel, and the last remaining of its design in the world.


Since its retirement as an abattoir the building has served many purposes, from medicine factory and cold storage to “lifestyle center” where Ferrari owners meet. But the building’s unique design emerges from its original purpose: slaughtering cattle.

Designed for efficiency, the walls are 50 centimeters thick, and hollow to help control air temperature. The hulking spiderweb intertwining staircases, ramps, bridges and corridors were all part of guiding the flow of both thousands of workers to their stations, and millions of cattle to their deaths.

Rough surface prevented cattle from slipping, even on blood slick floors. The lovely lattice windows on the outside were built to create maximum air circulation. The entire building was built around a central atrium that let in natural light. Cattle were herded through “air bridges,” of varying width which controlled the animals flow and the buildings sharp angles, allowed small spaces for people to stand in, in case the cattle began to panic.


However, despite the utilitarian purpose of the building, much thought was put into its style and decoration. The building is filled with decorative elements, such as beautifully designed art deco motifs in many of the windows and “flowering” columns. There is even a religious element to the design. All the windows were built facing west, the direction of the Buddhist holy land. This was thought to help aid the cattle process of reincarnation. On a more practical note, it is also the wind direction in Shanghai and helped to counter the smell of slaughter.


Aside from the theater space, a few interesting design studios and high end antique/art stores, overpriced restaurants and other unbefitting businesses cheapen the charm of this venue. It was advertised in many guides as a creative center, but that was definitely not the case during our visit. It’s a familiar urban story – amazing historic site converted into a giant mall primarily visited by tourists and the nouveau riche. Zoetica and I fantasized about how amazing the space would be as a cultural center, filled with art galleries and studios, complete, of course, with a glorious nightclub on the top floor.

Ultimately it is the interlocking staircases and twenty-six “air bridges” of varying width that connect the outer areas with the circular core that give the building its mind-bending M.C. Escher quality.


Nevertheless, the impressive maze of spiraling staircases, interlocking ramps, air bridges and dark concrete atriums is amazing to explore, provoking feelings of awe and disoriented fascination. Despite the cold and harsh look of the concrete, the architect incorporated many charming decorative elements to the structure’s columns and facade, as well as beautifully designed art deco motifs in many of the windows.

Zoetica: And hey – there is plenty of available space. Maybe something truly grand is yet to happen here!

The building is still in flux, having been given a major renovation in 1998 after years of abandonment. Used for weddings, club nights, independent markets and other gatherings, the building has yet to find a full new purpose. Now simply called “1933” it remains to be seen if what fills this incredible building will live up to its surroundings.

If you’re interested in urban exploration, decay, architecture, or are looking for a stunning photo backdrop, 1933 Slaughterhouse is a must-see.

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June 21st, 2013
Topic: Cattle, CHINA, SLAUGHTER BUTCHER Tags: , , , , ,

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