On Saturday we went to two different “houses.” One was a 1933 art deco slaughterhouse (no, not just a catchy name. A literal former slaughterhouse) and the other was a room where you pay someone to lock you in and figure out puzzles until you free yourself.
We first went to the slaughterhouse. Billed as the last slaughterhouse on earth (and the largest in the East), anyone with even a slight interest in architecture should check it out. It’s free to walk around and look at the flow of the building which has been rightfully called “escher-esque.”
It was built pre-communist era, with help from a British architect. The building itself was made from concrete from England and was built with both east and west ideals. According to the literature, the outer ring of the building, where the cows would walk up a series of “air bridges” before they were slaughtered at the top, is made western style, with “umbellate columns” supporting the massive weight of the structure. The walls are 50 cm wide, but hallow inside for a natural cooling effect, even in the broiling summer.
The middle atrium has swirling spiral staircases (which workers could use as escape routes if the animals panicked) and was made with feng shui principles. The atrium was built with special openings, to let in light, unique windows to maximize air flow and the directions of the windows were thought to allow the animals spirit to leave easily when it was killed.
This place is truly a maze of thin walkways, random stairs and, most impressively, “air bridges” that seem to have no rhyme or reason. The bridges are at different lengths and heights to control the animals, and keep them in an orderly pace. We could see a place we wanted to get to but it would take us several minutes to figure out how to get there. A few times we got lost, and ended up at dead ends just trying to get out.
At the time it was built this place cost 3.3 million silver dollars. (I have no idea how much that is in todays dollars, but I think it’s safe to say it was a shit ton.) It fell into disrepair for a long time, then was renovated in the late 90’s and is now an art space. Fashion shoots come here for photograph sessions and walkway shows, there is a ferrrai owners club and a few cafes to sit down in after you’ve finished walking about. This place could contain twice or three times as many shops and still feel quite desolate and empty. That’s how big it is.
After that, it was time to have some fun (in an air conditioned house of course). Time for the puzzle house! I think this is a popular thing worldwide, but it was my first time going so I had a lot of fun. It’s a puzzle house where you, and a group of friends, get locked in a dimly lit room with only your brains and a flashlight to help you. (You have to leave your wallet, keys and phone outside in a locker.)
You have 60 minutes (which is shown on a big clock) to figure out what to do and how to solve the puzzles which leads to further clues and ultimately, your escape.
It was really fun, and quite adrenaline rushing even though nothing bad happens to you if you lose. (No ‘bomb collar’ as one of my friends joked.) As you solve puzzles things in the room change, like the lighting, and new panels opening up. One time, when we figured out the clue of 4 clocks, we heard a loud clang and looked around the room. We noticed a door with bars had slid open and we could see a crawlspace through it, but we had to solve another puzzle before the bars would open.
We were successful, with a few minutes to spare (our exit had us climbing up a big metal tube to the roof). Winners get their picture taken for the wall. I was very exciting.
While both of these “houses” are very different from each other, they are both fun in there own ways. The slaughterhouse was free, the puzzle house costs money, but if you find yourself in Shanghai I suggest trying out both!
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