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Monthly Design Review - November 2021

This month we take a cue from Halloween and venture into some abandoned spaces around the globe.


GROWTH AND DECAY: Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (David McMillan, 2019 )

Photographer David McMillan has journeyed countless times over the past three decades to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. As one of the first artists to gain access to “The Zone,” McMillan initially explored the evacuated areas with few constraints and in solitude, save for an occasional scientist monitoring the effects of radioactivity. Returning year after year enabled him to revisit the sites of earlier photographs, bearing witness to the forces of nature as they reclaimed the abandoned communities.

Buy the book here.


THE RUINS OF DETROIT (Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre, 2010)

This book is a five-year collaboration between French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. Together they documented Detroit’s abandoned buildings through a cinematic series of starkly beautiful photographs. Shooting with a large format, custom made camera, taking advantage of natural light and using long exposures, the images embody the unique atmosphere of each location. Marchand and Meffre’s work retains a formal quality and is conceived as a document, giving the viewer a surreal glimpse of Detroit’s former glory.

Buy the book here.


AFTER THE FLOOD (Robert Polidori, 2006)

In September 2005, the photographer Robert Polidori travelled to New Orleans to record the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. He began photographing and entering the abandoned houses, mapping the lives of the absent people through their abandoned belongings. Polidori stayed longer than first planned, then went back again and again, for weeks, taking hundreds of pictures with a large-format camera that produced wide, superbly detailed color photographs.


Buy the book here.


ABANDONED MALLS OF AMERICA: Crumbling Commerce Left Behind (Seph Lawless, 2020)

This collection of photos captures the decline of one of the biggest symbols of American consumerism - the shopping mall. Photographer Seph Lawless details the dilapidated state of buildings that were once thriving with people and merchandise, now left to rot and be overrun with plant and animal life.

Alongside images are first-hand accounts from people who grew up going to these malls, reminiscing on the dually wistful and fond memories of their once-favorite local hangouts.

Buy the book here.


THE LAST STAND (Marc Wilson, 2014)

This work aims to reflect the histories and stories of military conflict and the memories held in the landscape itself. The series documents some of the physical remnants of the Second World War on the coastlines of the United Kingdom and northern Europe, focusing on military defense structures that remain and their place in the shifting landscape that surrounds them.

Many of these locations are no longer in sight, either subsumed or submerged by the changing sands and waters or by more human intervention. At the same time others have re-emerged from their shrouds.

Buy the book here.



Japanese photographer MAKIKO was granted rare permission to photograph the restricted zone of Battleship Island - a tiny, fortress-like island (also known as ’Hashima’ or ‘Gunkanjima’) just off the coast of Nagasaki. Once the most densely populated place on earth, it is now a ghost town, completely uninhabited for more than forty years.

Built as a network of undersea coal mines during Japan’s rapid industrialization in the 19th century, it was abandoned in 1974. All that now remains is the dramatic sea wall that surrounds it, and its tightly packed, concrete buildings, undisturbed except by nature. In the book, archive photographs break the eerie silence of the island’s contemporary landscape and through the memories of a former resident of the island, MAKIKO brings her imagination to bear on what life was like there as a child – a place described to her as a childhood paradise.

Buy the book here.



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