Hotels in the Afterlife

[Image: From Sinai Hotels, by Sabine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche of Haubitz+Zoche].

Vienna's Architekturzentrum will be hosting a new photography show, opening this Wednesday, April 24, called Sinai Hotels.
With images by Sabine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche of Haubitz+Zoche, the show looks at "the concrete skeletons of five-star hotel complexes" abandoned on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
They are resorts that never quite happened, then, with names like Sultan's Palace and the Magic Life Imperial. This makes them "monuments to failed investment."

[Images: From Sinai Hotels, by Sabine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche of Haubitz+Zoche].

The hotels now look more like "architectonic sculptures" in the desert, the photographers claim, or derelict abstractions, as if some aging and half-crazed billionaire had constructed an eccentric sculpture park for himself amongst the dunes.

[Images: From Sinai Hotels, by Sabine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche of Haubitz+Zoche].

The billionaire goes for long walks at night alone amongst the ruins, sweeping dust from recent sandstorms off windowsills and open doorways.
At night, when the stars come out, different constellations are framed by unglazed windows, as if justifying these concrete forms from above with the poetic force of celestial geometry.

[Image: From Sinai Hotels, by Sabine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche of Haubitz+Zoche].

Or, for that matter, five years from now these deserted monuments simply disappear – but because they've been put to use, finally, enwrapped with drywall and plaster, fitted out with drapes and marble floors, and you can sleep inside them for $300 a night, never even dreaming that these hotels were once ruins, temporarily abandoned to the sand and only recently reclaimed.
The empty swimming pool is now full – and you dive into it, unaware that you're more like a ghost than a tourist, haunting the afterlife of these sites in bleaching sunlight.

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Anonymous billy g said...

Pierre Huyghe did a similar project some years back involving the estates built in Southern Europe (I think) and left similarly unfinished as tax shelters. I don't recall the name of the series offhand, but he finds this endless landscape of concrete structures, in a similarly barren environment. I have to say, these unfinished luxury hotels real turn up the spooky vibe here...

April 21, 2008 11:05 AM  
Anonymous minxlj said...

Why are there so many? What a waste of natural resources, and in such a beautiful place too.

April 21, 2008 1:26 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

beautifully written, Geoff

April 21, 2008 6:37 PM  
Anonymous Joshua said...

This is really interesting, and brings up the idea of when a ruin truly (officially?) becomes a ruin. Is 5 years enough (or 10, 50, 100...) for something newly/partially built, then abandoned, then made habitable for humans again, to have been a ruin? Is there time for ghosts to gather? Can a structure instantly become a ruin? Is it all about the viewer's aesthetic?

When it comes down to it, all structures are ruins. Eventually. They just don't know it yet. As are we. Which hurts a little.

April 21, 2008 9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haven't been to this site in awhile- still as awesome as always. I wish this type of arrested development happened more, and could then be re-approached years later with new ideas, stripped of the previous intent and given an alternate future.

April 22, 2008 10:17 AM  
Anonymous PrairieMod said...

This is a great looking desert project! Another interesting project going on in a US desert can be found here.

This is the work of the students at Frank Lloyd Wright's School of Architecture in Scottsdale, AZ. Jennifer Siegal from Office of Mobile Design has consulted the students on the project.

Previous posts regarding the prefab are located here....

Project intro

Update 1

Update 2

April 22, 2008 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Diana said...

Failed investment, huh. Looks so abandoned there that it looks like failed infrastructure.

April 22, 2008 3:06 PM  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

These are fabulous.

Why are there so many?

I'm guessing here, but maybe they were left after this? My German's not really up to finding out for definite, but a lot of the settlements were abandoned (with odd exceptions like top tourist trap Sharm-el-Sheik)

April 22, 2008 4:30 PM  
Anonymous arch.des.lab said...

this post just reminded me of the unfinished concrete monster in north korea: the ryu-gyoung hotel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryugyong_Hotel

April 22, 2008 7:07 PM  
Anonymous John Devlin said...

great writing Geoff: reminds me of Ozymandias

April 22, 2008 7:50 PM  
Anonymous jean said...

The Masonic Temple in Providence, RI is a former ruin, now turned luxury hotel. It was built in the 1920s and abandoned just prior to completion, after the stock market crash -- and stood for more than 70 years as a concrete shell, no interior finishes, no plumbing, empty elevator shafts, a half-complete roof... though it did have a nice limestone classical-revival facade (which was probably the only thing that saved it from hasty demolition).

The large, unobserved amphitheaters inside the building (for the Masons' gatherings & ceremonies?) offered wide walls and long vistas: perfect places for painting and looking at large illegal artwork. The temple became rightly legendary among graffiti artists.. . .

Rotten stairs and a four-foot gap between the floor and the wall on one side of the building made it completely hazardous. A couple of my friends took serious, 4-story falls in there -- and survived, with minor injuries. Nobody ever died there, though, or if they did, it was kept very quiet.


By 2004, the structure had deteriorated enough that the building's re-developers had to build an exterior superstructure to support the facade while they took out the old structure and built their hotel inside the limestone. So the old building, that any explorers & artists might have known, is now completely gone -- except for a few pieces of graffiti art which (I have heard) were preserved as decor for the new hotel's first-floor bar: called "Temple". I haven't been in -- don't know if any ghosts of homeless folks, risk-oblivious kids, or graffiti writers are lingering around in its newly shiny surfaces...

April 23, 2008 2:46 AM  
Anonymous Douglas Meyer said...

Holy Cow! This would be the best place to play a paint ball game. It reminds me a lot of scenes from first-person-shooter video games.

April 23, 2008 6:07 PM  
Anonymous MarkM said...

These photos remind me of the "ghost
hotel" in the center of Pyongyang,
North Korea: 105 storeys, in the
middle of the capital, and completely
unoccupied:
http://gridskipper.com/travel/pyongyang/north-korean-ghost-hotel-128788.php

April 23, 2008 8:25 PM  
Anonymous Eric Garner said...

what's amazing to me is the total lack of "man-made destruction", for lack of a better phrase. no graffitti no smashed stuff, not even any footprints. Anything like this in America, no matter how far away from civilization is covered with spray painted tags/paintballs/bullet holes etc. in these photos it's like humans went extinct long before the photos were taken.

April 23, 2008 8:33 PM  
Anonymous tomé said...

i couldn't have chosen a better day to get a way from the usual few photography blogs i'm used to. what an amazing set of imagery.

April 23, 2008 8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reminds me of di chirico's metaphysical town square paintings or maybe max ernst's 2 children being frightened by a nightingale.

(minus the nightingale...)

April 23, 2008 11:14 PM  
Blogger j said...

Geoff: If you get a chance, find a copy of a volume of Thomas Bernhard's ingenious one-page short stories called "The Voice Imitator." There are several stories in there that remind me a lot of this post.

April 24, 2008 12:05 AM  
Anonymous Tal Rotbart said...

I've passed these ruins several times on route to other destinations in the northern part of the Sinai peninsula. Most of these 'ruins' are along the road from the Taba border crossing south towards Tarabin.

To the best of my knowledge most of these deserted resorts were built during a golden age of tourism to Sinai, which began around the time the Oslo peace accords between Israel and Palestinians were signed and lasted until the second Intifada broke in September, 2000.

April 24, 2008 12:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey look!

It's the future of Dubai!

April 24, 2008 1:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Id love to check this out on Google Earth. Anyone know the Lat/Long?

April 24, 2008 2:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The abandoned hotels probably have something to do with this:

2004 Sinai bombings
2005 Sharm el-Sheikh attacks

The attackers wanted to keep the "morally corrupt" (i.e. bikini wearing) tourists away and succeeded pretty well.

April 24, 2008 5:41 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

re: anonymous:
I am not sure the attacks were so much about the "morally corrupt bikini wearers" as they were about specifically Israeli bikini wearers. The Sinai is a weird place (the touristy parts, anyway), and made weirder by the huge resentment the locals feel for the Israeli tourists, despite the fact that it's they who bring in a lot of the money. A small (armed) subset of locals tried to make them stop coming by blowing them up.

April 24, 2008 6:32 AM  
Blogger GeekThug said...

These places look like different Halo levels. Someone should photoshop the pictures and put Master Chief in it.

One of the pictures looks like someone was playing Portal.

April 24, 2008 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

these evocative photos remind me of Dr. Manhattan's crazy pink castle on Mars from the great graphic novel "Watchmen." They look so lonely out there in the middle of nowhere.

April 24, 2008 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those interested in ruins:
http://www.edwardsaquifer.net/hotwells.html

April 24, 2008 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe this is what Stonehenge is, an unfinished luxury hotel....OK maybe not.

April 24, 2008 5:25 PM  
Blogger Tim Chapman said...

But they're not afterlife hotels - they're pre-life.
These are a very familiar sight around the Red Sea, not just in Sinai. As I've been told on visits to the area, it's all to do with Egyptian planning law - it's dirt cheap to throw up the speculative concrete like this so you have something to show to potential investors, and the developer doesn't have to pay the duties until it's finished. Some do get finished sooner or later - some don't.

April 25, 2008 5:08 AM  
Anonymous Larry said...

Downtown Jakarta had a lot of buildings like this (at least it did when I was there in 2000). Skyscrapers that they just stopped building after the Thai Bhat crashed in ~ 1997 - many with the scaffolding still in place.

April 25, 2008 11:21 AM  
Anonymous auds said...

There are many of these scattered throughout Bangkok--also left from the crash of 1997. Many are swathed in green mesh. Many are also inhabited by packs of stray dogs. They remind me of the huge unfinished hotel from the North Korea brochures. Absolutely fascinating stuff.

April 25, 2008 2:45 PM  
Blogger Colin said...

Anyone seen the japanese movie "Afterlife"? about the japanese afterlife hotel?

April 26, 2008 2:20 AM  
Blogger Kivi said...

@owen: the site has English translation--it's the last link in the left-hand menu. It doesn't provide a huge amount of information, though:

"There are many reasons why the building of the hotel resort ceased, ranging from bad investments to the embezzlement of subsidised state loans, and dwindling tourism caused by the perceived danger of terrorist attacks."

April 27, 2008 11:49 PM  
Anonymous PapaFrita said...

That last one just screams laser tag or paintball, or some other elaborate game. It looks just like a Halo map.

April 28, 2008 8:31 PM  
Blogger ILuvNUFC said...

Hello, I'm a long time reader and a big fan of this site.
I linked to this post at my place here Cincinnati's Abandoned Subway. One of my readers said that the link to your site gave him a virus but I've had no problems with this site.

Thanks and take it easy.
Later, ILuvNUFC.

April 30, 2008 11:13 AM  
OpenID nevolution said...

I've been to Sinai and walked through one of these ruins; truly strange experience. You're writing puts the experience much more succinctly than I ever could have.

I've just posed a response to this post/the exhibition on my blog, with a few more shots of one of the buildings (I think I walked around the opposite dual hole one)

http://nevolution.typepad.com/theories/2008/05/unfinished-ruin.html

May 05, 2008 6:46 AM  
Anonymous Mart said...

Here's an unfinished but not abandoned Frank Lloyd Wright at the Wright Way Organic Resource Center in Malibu, CA. Pix I took in 2004.
No idea if Eric Lloyd Wright has done anything with this site since then.
http://archers.smugmug.com/gallery/145052_wcPHv#5325034_kvdk6

May 15, 2008 8:06 PM  
Anonymous Mart said...

Here's that link html'd - I hope

May 15, 2008 8:11 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

Wow, these photos are amazing - incredibly reminiscent of many early J.G. Ballard short stories - if you haven't read any I strongly advise you do!

September 29, 2008 11:10 PM  
Blogger Calinda said...

Amazing photos...and no, it's not just a "guy thing". LOL I have been fascinated with abandoned buildings for as long as I can remember. Anyway...love the photos. :) Calinda

June 09, 2011 10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They are gorgeous. I wish they were closer to where I live, because something in me yearns to explore them.

December 08, 2011 8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in the Sinai as a US Peacekeeper in 2003...many, many of these structures were lining the coastal highway from Sharm to Eilat.

At the time, the explanation we were given was the one based on tax-shelters, etc. I don't think it had anything to do with 9/11 or later attacks. And certainly nothing to do with morals of tourists.

The Mubarak government invested enormous amounts of money and resources (police, etc) into the Sinai area. As a visitor, it was safe, beautiful, and a great place to spend money...night life, SCUBA diving, adventure touring, etc.

I don't know how the area has fared since the new regime has taken over.

March 03, 2012 2:35 AM  

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