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Sunday, June 05, 2005
Abandoned modern architecture is not really as uncommon as one might think. There's an undeniably epic scale and sweep to the largest modernist schemes - a sublime to ridiculous genre that encompasses Brasilia, Chandigarh, even Thamesmead or the late, unlamented Pruitt Igoe (see yesterday's post). Yet scale gives these places an inescapable feeling of emptiness and abandonment, even when they're still in use (for filmmakers, it meant an instant dystopia): one of the primary criticisms of modernism is that rigidity and repetition make for sterile places to live.

Halvorsen, in flagging up the amazing Maunsell Towers, reveals the modern ruin's innate sense of drama, a blend of regret, tragedy and failed potential that adds immeasurably to the atmosphere, made all the more pertinent by its historical closeness. (we're also pretty sure that the Towers provided some celebrated visual inspiration).

Which is why these links to a few Russian Urban Exploration sites are so fascinating (Abandoned.ru is especially recommended). The structures shown here are not only abandoned, but frequently unfinished, and convey the sense of a society struggling - and failing - with massive social upheaval. For example, abandoned hospitals and asylums are two a penny in the UK, but an unfinished hospital? We did a short bit of (sub)urban exploration on the Baltic coast last month, and again, the complex we visited was, again, unfinished - a factory that never built anything at all. Photos to follow.

The spectre of Chernobyl hangs over all these images, perhaps, the one modern event that can effectively rip the still-beating life out of an entire city in an instant. But the overall picture is one of economic stagnation. Images likes those of the 'sleeping giants' in the 'Moscow countryside' should bring comfort to Russia's enemies and vindicate the policies of even more. Another gallery, the lost biker. More abandoned healthcare: the Le Valdor Hospital and the Sanatorium Joseph Lemaire (now and then), both in Belgium. Dubtown, German places. It's impossible to mention urban exploration without citing Urbex, the endlessly interesting site about infiltrating abandoned sites in the UK.

*
Some other things. The city distance tool will give you the direct distance between any two places on the planet. Handy. hi-res images from the Atlas of our Changing Environment, produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (news story) / further to yesterday's publishing links, all about In Coldest Type, 'a scathing indictment of the American Way of Bookselling'.

You can buy instant showreels of old ads in Delhi: 'These CDs will be used repeatedly for nurturing employees in the art of advertising' / the landscape paintings of Helmut Ditsch / flyers and posters by Same Design / bananas in pyjamas, by David Wills / band mind weapons.com, meet crank.net