Creating a building is an
optimistic act. It is invested with hopes and ideas about how it’s to be
used, how it can help people and change society.
But buildings are like people. They get old and increasingly irrelevant. Some, through ill-managed conception or subsequent neglect, become delinquent. Some are despised, some abandoned and most eventually get razed to make way for new lives.
Social realism in photography focuses on people, their issues, their joys and their tribulations. For me, as an architect, structures and spaces are poignant indicators which frame urban lives and act as the stage sets of transition. They’re physical records of people’s lived experiences, their communities and their societies over time.
This series of photographs brings together disparate dystopic environments. Some are from the island of Príncipe in West Africa, others are of neglected or abandoned modernist structures. They both represent the decline of utopian dreams.
The arcadian lives of the wealthy Portuguese colonists in Príncipe ended in 1976 from one day to the next. They were forced to flee, leaving their villas behind, the invading jungle becoming the visible agent of change.
In the urban context, that agent is less tangible. The utopian enthusiasm of the modernist architectural movement, especially in high-density social housing projects, has subsequently been seen by many an urbanistic and social failure. With their hopes never quite realised and with the reality of poverty, neglect and decay, these structures have mostly come to represent the social ills and stigmas which beset the poor. The brutalist forms and depraved landscapes are invaded not by jungle, but by a sense of anomie.
- Gaelen Pinock, Dystopias (2012)