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.
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.
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.