Serene Footman continues his renewed region design partnership with Jade Koltai, with the two opening their latest offering to Second Life users on May 21st, this one taking us deep into Mexico and the ghostly settlement of Ojuela.
Located within the state of Durango, Ojuela initially gained some notoriety in the 17th century as a place where gold and silver could be found, both having been discovered there by Spanish prospectors in 1598. However, it was the discovery of assorted minerals – some 177 different types in all, including adamite, calcite, legardite, rosasite and fluorite – that really spurred the mining operations in the area.
By the 19th century, mining operations had given rise to a small settlement on the mountain housing the the mine, and this underwent significant expansion as miners tbrought their families to settle with them and a railhead was established for transporting mined minerals to nearby Mapimí.
It was at the end of the 19th century that the town’s most famous landmark – and focal point for Jade and Serene’s build – was constructed. This is the impressive Ojuela Bridge, designed by Wilhelm Hildenbrand. With a span of 271.5 metres, on completion in 1898 it was the world’s the third longest suspension bridge. However, by the time it was completed mining at Ojuela – now under the control of the Peñoles mining company (today the second largest mining conglomerate in Mexico) – was starting to experience increasing issues with shafts flooding and waning mineral deposits.
The Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 did not help with production at the mine, and following the end of the fighting, Peñoles opted to withdraw, leasing the mine back to local miners. However, by the early 1930s, with the mine suffering from severe flooding and the accessible mineral veins exhausted, Ojuela was abandoned, bringing to an end around 350 years of continuous mining which had yielded 6 million tons of thoroughly oxidised ore carrying 90 million ounces of silver, 0.6 million ounces of gold and 1.8 billion pounds of lead.
With the mine abandoned the town was left to nature, and today little remains. However, the Ojuela Bridge has been luckier. A major restoration project was started in the late 1980s, culminating in it being fully restored and re-opened as a pedestrian bridge (and tourist attraction) in 1991.
Given they only have a single region to work within, Serene and Jade have – as always – captured the core essence of their subject perfectly, blending the region with a surround to offer a real sense of being in a mountainous setting. From the massive bridge gantries – built be Serene – through to the surrounding peaks, they’ve taken a huge amount of care to offer an engaging mix of physical fidelity at scale with the original setting and a degree of artistic licence.
Fore example, the remnants of the Ojuela township, are perhaps more complete here than in the physical world Ojuela, where they are referred to as “ruins” and “foundations” – but this adds to the attractiveness of Jade and Serene’s Ojuela, allowing visitors to gather a sense of how it might have appears in the years following the immediate abandonment.
The bridge itself cleverly uses Serene’s own work and commercially-available bridge elements and is simply a masterpiece, spanning as it does the deep gorge that comes complete with the shadowy entrance to a cave (or older mineshaft) that can also bee seen in many photographs taken around the actual bridge. The model fully captures the cabling of the original and the sensation evoked when crossing it is such that all it needs is a couple of materials surfaces to allow the natural creaking of wood in response to walking on the boards together with the susurration of a breeze through the cables, as one would definitely have the sensation of crossing the actual bridge.
As is usual for the team’s work, Ojuela includes multiples places to sit and appreciate the setting, together with local wildlife and the use of a gentle soundscape to add definition and depth to a visit.
Admittedly, I’ve opted from a brighter daylight setting with the images here than has been created for Ojuela, the region’s environment being more of a twilight nature, but this shouldn’t put you off visiting: Serene’s and Jade’s work is always richly engaging and rewarding to see whilst it remains available to appreciate.
With thanks to both Shawn and Cube for the SLurls / pointers!