Standing all dark, reflective and shiny in-between Portsmouth’s Victoria Park and Commercial Road shopping misery is the former Zurich House building. Built in 1973 (designed by the Gollins, Melvin and Ward Partnership) and standing at roughly 60 meters it has been a prominent view point on the city’s skyline for some time now.

My first of many trips here was back in 2011 at about the time I was getting generally bored of, well, everything. This was the place that got me excited about urban exploration and the challenges the sub-culture presents to a photographer. The old photo company I was part of had broken down and I was left wondering aimlessly with not much to do. A couple of friends of mine, who had been into UE for some time, invited me along on a night time explore here and that began my fascination with this building.

Why did I enjoy it so much? It was the ever evolving and enjoyable process of gaining access and being able to stand on the roof and listen to the city below early on a Sunday morning. The building itself is stripped out completely. Nothing remains but dusty floors, broken windows and various items scattering the interior. The real gem of this venture is the roof and most of the UE community who have gone to this site have headed right to the top. I dont blame them.

THE WAY IN

Ive talked fondly about the crawl in through the air vent to many many people (except Ryan…..he hated it) and it was my second favourite part after the fence.

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Once inside you are met with floor after floor of curving nothingness intersected by hollowed out lift shafts. I did shoot a virtual exploration image as well, viewable here.

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THE STAIRS TO THE ROOF

14 floors of stairs late in the evening is not fun but is good for two things: firstly it is a fine way to work out if you need to work on your fitness, and secondly it will make you wish you had packed some water. Once at the top you walk into pigeon heaven….or hell…either way, if you dont know winged beasts of the night are there be prepared to change your pants. Once through this avenue of the pigeon you hit the ladder to the roof…..

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THE ROOF

The roof is a gem. It gives you a better panoramic view of the city than the spinnaker tower and will hopefully cost you less. I shot my first virtual exploration tour here and is also one of the few times I have hung my camera over a 60 meter drop.

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The downward shots, some of these were exposures that last a couple of minutes. I had to lay on my tripod to keep it still.

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photo by Mike Deere

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The first photo below of the view is a 111 image monster shot that took about 30 minutes to shoot with long exposures. The first time you dont take gloves, the second time gloves live in your bag….my fingers were a bit cold by the end of this.

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You can spend a lot of time on the roof photographing every last little thing. Each visit in for me lasted several hours and because the site was repeatable (like the Odeon in Portsmouth’s North End) I kept finding new images. Each time I went back there was always something else to photograph and sitting here writing this I am thinking of a few more shots I wish I had taken…..

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