A New Life for the House of Death

As I get to know the multitude of functions of my new camera, I have been on the search for subjects that are both breathtaking and simple to photograph (no point having a new camera if you can’t show off some good photos). 1933 scores on both accounts.

It began life as an abattoir (part of a chain, of which the others, in London and New York, are long demolished) and after several changes of function, is now used as a complex of studios, restaurants and retail spaces.

The building has been stripped back to its Art Deco functionalism (that could well be an oxymoron…), exposing its original architectural features and celebrating its original usage. In a city where people cross the road so they don’t have to walk past a hospital, it’s a brave step on the part of the developers.

The building itself is an amazing mash-up of concrete and voids, soaring bridges, ramps and winding staircases. It’s like Escher on Mushrooms, but surprisingly very functional.

The whole complex is basically a circle inside a square.

My research tells me that (yukkies ahead…) the cows were forced up the 3 levels of the building via a series of ramps at the periphery – the square – stopping to feed in a number of rooms (at least they were given a final meal).

Bridges of varying width would then sort the cows into different sizes before funneling them to the inner circular tower, where they would descend (gravity-assisted) to their final gory fate on the floor below.

To ensure that beast and man would never meet – getting emotionally attached can make that killing part a little hard – a multitude of tiny staircases was provided for the workers.


In the refurbishment, the outer feeding halls and administration areas have been converted to offices, restaurants and retail, while the inner tower is used as an exhibition space.

A glass-floored events space has been created at the top – as if the feeling of discomfort wasn’t pressing enough already.

The rooftop is a pretty nice place to take in a view of the city.

After a spend of over 100 million RMB, the developers might be wondering why 1933 hasn’t taken off yet. Perhaps it’s the sordid history or the inflexible configuration of the building (‘cows to the slaughter’ is not such a good metaphor for a retail centre) or its relatively inaccessible location or the lack of interest from decent tenants (aside from the Ferrari Owners Club of Shanghai and a few steak-themed restaurants).


That said, it has captured one market very effectively … a weekend army of amateur photographers, armed with big cameras and the desire for an easy ego-boost.



2 Responses to A New Life for the House of Death

  1. luKe says:

    Looks like Auschwitz meets the Turin Fiat factory.

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