industrial exploration

10

SKELETON FACTORY

Skeleton Factory was originally a printing/publishing company. The company was founded around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century in a nearby city, but was moved to this location around 1935. It was the spot where the family had its holiday home. In 1930 the owner of the company bought a pavilion that had previously been used at the International Exposition in Liege and had it rebuilt behind his holiday home. In 1935 he brought his printing/publishing company here. In the years to come it would develop into the factory we now know. The printing works consisted primarily of post cards, for the better part replicas of his own pictures (he was also a photographer) of the Belgian coast. A few years before his demise focus shifted from post cards to mainly labels. His son, who was already a printer in the company, took over the firm, at which point business started evolving into industrial printing. After the Second World War the company was taken over several times by American multinationals, but new investments were no longer made. In 2004 the business folded and the 46 remaining employees were out of a job… 

4

The transport ramp

When we reached this place it was bitter cold and it had just begun to snow. We fought through the forest and were thrilled by this sight. It has been over 100 years since this transport ramp was built for a mine. Probably thousands of tons of rock were extracted from the mountain. 

Today there is nothing left of the mine. Only this monumental building can no longer be reconstructed and therefore remains alone and deserted in the forest.

10

HEAVY METAL

The Walloon steel industry is older than Belgium itself. Its history dates back to 1817 when English entrepreneur John Cockerill opened his first steel factory in Seraing near Liege to provide steel for his weaving looms. Over the next years the steel industry kept expanding until it was dealt severe blows by the crisis of the 1980’s. Mergers and significant capital investments couldn’t prevent that the two main blast furnaces were shut down in 2005. For a brief moment things were looking up when the Indian steel magnate Mittal took over and created ArcelorMittal, but due to continuing social conflicts activity was shut down permanently in 2011. It didn’t take too long for copper thieves to find their way to the abandoned steel mill and strip it of all its copper wire, just like they did in the two blast furnaces before…

2

Metal foundry L // Metallgießerei L

This thing had been stubborn. It took us three attempts to get all the footage we wanted. On the first try, we couldn’t even get in and unsuccessfully crawled through the shrubbery looking for a hole in the fence. On the second try, we found a way inside but soon had to run from retirees on a leisure walk. So we needed a third attempt to get the shots from the outside. Overall we’ve been working on this report for two years. 

9

VAL-SAINT-LAMBERT

This factory was founded in 1826 on the grounds of a former Cistercian abbey, that goes back to the 13th century. At the end of the 18th century the abbey was desecrated. The crystal factory was founded 30 years later. The chapter hall and the scriptorium were renovated and are still in use to this day. With the participation at the World Fair in Antwerp in 1894 with the “Vase of the Nine Provinces” Val-Saint-Lambert became a household name world wide. The vast majority of the production was exported. Val-Saint-Lambert had wealthy customers all over the world. The Russion Czar family among them.

At its centennial in 1926 the factory employed over 5000 people!

At the time of my visit to the part of the factory that had already been abandoned for several years, the remediation of the grounds had already started and large parts of the factory had been demolished. Other than the small storage building, there was not much left. This building had decayed beatifully, which made it a nice, albeit short explore…