There’s a long tradition of turning something old into something new again. This week, secretive street artist Banksy has brought his “family theme park unsuitable for children” to a disused seaside swimming resort in the town of Weston-super-mare in Somerset in western England.
Featuring work from Banksy, Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer and many others, ‘Dismaland‘ is a temporary exhibition set up to be a dystopian version of Disneyland. Forget the “Happiest Place On Earth” – Dismaland is pretty sickening, with wonky interpretations of fairytales, freaky dilapidated castles and some pretty on-the-nose political commentary in the form of sculptures. It’s certainly crazy, but it’s oddly a little fun.
But Banksy is certainly not the first person to take something broken and restore it to brilliance. Here’s a collection of abandoned places that have been transformed into new attractions you can visit today.
#1 New York City’s High Line
Once an above ground train line that serviced the west side of Manhattan, the High Line tracks fell into disuse and were deconstructed over a few decades. In 1999 however, non-profit company Friends of the High Line proposed to turn the elevated tracks into a shared community garden and public space. Construction began in 2006 to create an aerial greenway that snaked through several neighbourhoods including the Meatpacking District, Chelsea and the Upper West Side. The park is now covered in lush greenery, a slated walking path and a few coveted lounge chairs.
#2 NDSM Werf in Amsterdam
Once the biggest shipyard in Europe, NDSM-werf went bankrupt in 1984 and became a pretty dilapidated setting. The city then decided to sponsor a community-wide art project which effectively turned NDSM-werf into Kinetisch Noord, a creative and collaborative art space for artists and designers alike. Old warehouses were converted into studios, workspaces, theatres and even an indoor skate park – the space is currently the home of countless exhibitions, graffiti art and music festivals.
#3 Christiania in Denmark
Back in the ’70s, squatters living in the Copenhagen neighbourhood of Christiania effectively seceded from Denmark and proclaimed themselves to be an autonomous “freetown”. Since then, a communal, self-governing culture has flourished smack in the middle of a country that is otherwise notoriously buttoned-up. It was built on a former abandoned military barracks base and now stands in complete contrast to what once stood there. Christiania locals have had run-ins with the government every now and again, but things have mellowed out in recent years and the freetown is now a unique, park-like place to spend an afternoon.
#4 Beijing’s Watercube
Commonly known as the Watercube – it looks exactly like a cube of water – Beijing’s National Aquatics Centre hosted the swimming, diving and synchronised swimming events during the 2008 Summer Olympics in China’s capital. Following the Olympics, designers felt the excess pools could be used for another purpose, and decided to transform almost half of the cube into a water park. The Watercube Water Park opened in 2010 and boasts some of the coolest water slides, a kiddie pool, a wave pool and a spa area.
#5 Doel in Belgium
Just 28 kilometres north of Antwerp you’ll find a quaint little village called Doel, a ghost town that has been given new life by street art. The city was commissioned for demolition over a decade ago to make way for an enlargement of the Port of Antwerp but many residents decided not to take the buy-out, but rather stay and fight for their tiny town. Currently only about 25 residents live in Doel but the small run-down town is constantly inundated by travelling artists who are contributing to the ever growing collection of street art that is covring the city. Murals litter the walls of Doel – some have a political message while others are just funny little images that cover up the dilapidated bricks.
(Lead image: High Line)