Exploration

How This Urban Explorer Gets Into Restricted Areas

Tim Hwang wanted to tour a nuclear power plant, just for fun. After being denied access, Tim decided to fake his way in.

Chances are you have not met someone like Tim Hwang before. Forbes called him "the busiest man on the internet" - once he has an idea, he goes for it. And Hwang has had a lot of ideas.

One such idea came up during a conversation with a friend one day. "We were talking about field trips that we had gone on in high school," says Hwang. "And [my friend] was like, 'Oh, did you ever go to a nuclear plant?' And I was like, 'What high school do you go to that you went into a nuclear plant for your high school field trip?'"

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From there, Hwang was determined to find out how to do such a tour again today. However, after making the call and explaining that he was just an enthusiastic admirer and wanted to check out the nuclear power plant, he was politely told no.

After going back to the drawing board, Tim came up with a plan. He created a Tumblr site for his new group, named the Bay Area Infrastructure Observatory. Then he decided he needed an official sounding title for himself - Deputy Director.

"A big organization, it's not just numbers, there has to be people who actually have offices with mahogany desks and lots of people reporting to them and that kind of thing," Hwang explains. "But you have to know with organizations that the president never calls you, right? If it's an important enough organization, it's always got to be his assistant, so my official title is Deputy Director; there currently is no director."

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Why the keen interest in visiting a power plant? Or, for that matter, any of the sites that the Bay Area Infrastructure Observatory have visited, which include The National Ignition Facility, a container terminal, or the newly constructed San Francisco Bay Bridge extension?

"I think we live in an environment nowadays which is kind of very restricted as to what you can see and really, what you can learn about," Hwang says.

"Everything from the design of a chair to the setting of the size of a bike lane, these are all choices that ultimately, people make. And I think it's really inspirational that people are willing to kind of struggle to make that thing happen because no matter how small, it actually has a really big impact."

"I think it's very much just about, 'Hey, these places are really cool. It'd be great to learn more about them and it's weird that we don't know more about them.'"