Lonely Planet Writer

A photographer has shared striking pictures of Europe’s abandoned cooling towers

A photographer has captured stunning pictures of a range of abandoned cooling towers across Europe, showcasing the impressive scale and inner workings of structures left long forgotten.

abandoned cooling tower
Snow particles cover the interior mechanism of an abandoned cooling tower in Belgium. Image by Reginald Van de Velde
Cooling Tower Photography
Vegetation slowly taking over the bottom area of this cooling tower slated for demolition, Belgium. Image by Reginald Van de Velde
The view inside a decommissioned gasometer in Germany, looking upwards.
The view inside a decommissioned gasometer in Germany, looking upwards. Image by Reginald Van de Velde
Cooling Tower Europe
A catwalk disappears into the warm moist air that rises from an active cooling tower, Belgium. Image by Reginald Van de Velde

The images were taken by Belgian photographer Reginald Van de Velde, who visited a range of industrial zones and sites in countries such as France, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium and Italy for the project, exploring and documenting the diverse spaces. Throughout the photo series, Reginald visited approximately 40 locations in total, some of which included structures that were decommissioned, while a selection of the towers that he explored were still active. His inquisitive nature led Reginald to exploring his first industrial site in 2009. ‘The plant was huge and featured a cooling tower to get rid of excess heat. I was so curious to find out what the interior of a tower looked like, and upon entering it I was just baffled. The scale and dimensions was outrageous. The architecture was mind-blowing. The feeling was other-worldly. It was love at first sight,’ he said.

Workers left behind a ladder in this cooling tower scheduled for maintenance, France.
Workers left behind a ladder in this cooling tower scheduled for maintenance, France. Image by Reginald Van de Velde
Cooling Tower Photography
Five giant cooling towers remain following the demolition of a plant in the UK. Image by Reginald Van de Velde
Cooling Tower Photography
The impressive interior view of a giant cooling tower scheduled for maintenance, France. Image by Reginald Van de Velde
Cooling Tower Photography
Inside the belly of an active cooling tower in Belgium. Image by Reginald Van de Velde

Reginald began using Google Maps to pinpoint other industrial zones that he could visit in Belgium, before expanding his scope to Germany, France and the United Kingdom. The cooling towers that were active presented noise issues, while the photographer had to wear a respirator mask due to the lack of oxygen and the moisture in the environments. Throughout his time documenting the impressive structures, Reginald has picked up some helpful tricks that helped make sessions successful. ‘The most difficult part is actually shooting the place: the lens of your camera will be much colder than the hot and wet environment you’re in. Within seconds your lens is covered in damp, making it impossible to take a picture. You need to adjust your camera and lens to the interior temperatures before shooting’. The series manages to convey the grand scale of the massive spaces rarely seen by most people.

A circular cooling system is seen in an abandoned cooling tower in Belgium.
A circular cooling system is seen in an abandoned cooling tower in Belgium. Image by Reginald Van de Velde
A cooling tower in Luxemburg that features a clockwork-like design.
A cooling tower in Luxemburg that features a clockwork-like design. Image by Reginald Van de Velde
A booth sits still amidst fern in a decommissioned cooling tower in Belgium.
A booth sits still amidst fern in a decommissioned cooling tower in Belgium. Image by Reginald Van de Velde
Warm moist air rises from a central outlet inside an active cooling tower, Belgium.
Warm moist air rises from a central outlet inside an active cooling tower, Belgium. Image by Reginald Van de Velde

For his next project, Reginald plans to journey to Asia to explore abandoned holiday resorts and theme parks. More of Reginald’s work is available on his website and Instagram.

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