Poetic Urban Decay

Urban decay can be the result of deindustralization, depopulation, high local unemployment, crime and many other causes. It is not uncommon for it to be associated with crime in big cities, which it attracts. Urban decay can be incredibly poetic and inspire artists. Photographers are especially fascinated by urban ruin. Many photographers have died while on assignment in wars, still clinging to their cameras, Robert Capa for example, but many have also been killed while secretly photographing forgotten buildings, because of course abandoned buildings are usually unsafe. Richard Stanley Nickel, an American photographer and historian, known for his efforts to preserve and document the buildings of architect Louis Sullivan died when a stairwell in Chicago Stock Excange building collapsed on him.

Many blogs and websites, like The Infinite Beauty of Decay, to cite just one, are dedicated exclusively to this subject.

I have chosen four ruins for BMR 04, the latest issue of Babyshark’s Minority Report, that I found especially beautiful. One is a protestant church in Żeliszów, Poland. It was designed by an architect called Karl Gotthard Langhans. The other is a casino in Constanta, Romania. The third one is an incredible Brabantine Gothic stock exchange in Antwerp, Belgium. Precious little information is available of each of them on the Internet. This is part of the appeal, I suppose. In the case of the stock exchange it took me quite some time to discover where the building actually was. As if protecting their treasure, all that the photographers would reveal in their captions was: “somewhere in Belgium”. I have to thank my friend Ruben, who provided the clues who finally led me to the information. The fourth ruin is located in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, and it’s a former coal mine called Zeche Hugo.

Urban ruin can help us imagine what a post apocalyptic world would look like. I chose Lebbeus Woods for another of my short articles. His early projects seem to depict a dysfunctional, decaying world, populated mostly by robots and machines. 12 Monkeys, a science-fiction movie by Terry Gilliam, in turn, borrows at least one of its spaces from Woods’ fantastic drawings. This image was used without his permission, by the way, which resulted in a lawsuit, not so much for its appropiation, according to the author, but because of the interpretation of the image.


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