See relics of Europe’s industrial past reimagined as amusement parks
Published November 30, 2022
6 min read
Hundreds of feet under Transylvania lurks a gaping hole where undulating layers of black, white, and gray wind along rocky subterranean walls. A vast sea once covered the area of Romania where this cavern is now. The water has dried up and left behind salt, the mineral that gives cave walls their stripes.
This saline secret was a boon for the region and was mined for hundreds of years, starting as early as 1075. As miners extracted the mineral, they dug the magnificent cavern, expanding it until the mine, known as Salina Turda, closed in 1932. The subterranean area now has a new purpose and is used to delight visitors as an underground amusement park. This is only one example of an industrial site that has been reimagined and made available for public use. National Geographic photographer Luca Locatelli became enchanted by these sites while documenting the so-called “circular economy,” a vision of the future where little is wasted and reuse reigns. He says that land is a finite resource.
Industrial scars can take decades to heal. Some sites, such as Salina Turda in California, are irreparably altered. Repurposing is a vital way to preserve Earth’s limited resources.
Repurposing can also be a way to make contaminated areas more useful and draw attention to the environmental hazards of many industrial activities. Locatelli also took a photograph of Ferropolis, an abandoned open-pit coal mine in Germany, near Grafenhainichen. Although the concrete has been removed and the ground is capped with concrete, the footprints of the coal industry can still be seen.
In Locatelli’s photographs, visitors dance in colored lights around the enormous machines that once gathered our planet’s resources. The towering mining equipment stands out among the crowds as a beacon of hope for a better future and a reminder about the site’s past.
Luca Locatelli is an environmental photographer and filmmaker focused on the relations between people, science and technology, and the environment. This story is part of an immersive exhibit created for the Museum of Photography Gallerie d’Italia Torino Intesa San Paolo in partnership the Ellen McArthur Foundation.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.