Lonely Planet Writer

Incredible photos show Europe's abandoned buildings from totalitarian regimes

A new photographic project aims to explore the abandoned architecture of Europe’s totalitarian regimes and generate discussion about their future.

Rummu quarry, Estonia. The oldest part of the prison was built in 1949 by the Soviet occupation authorities
Rummu quarry, Estonia. The oldest part of the prison was built in 1949 by the Soviet occupation authorities Image by Kerly Ilves

So far 186 photographers have captured thousands of photos of almost 300 “uncomfortable” buildings linked to the totalitarian regimes of 20th century Europe. The online archive is now open to explore and the project is also mapping the buildings and including detailed research into their history and state of conservation.

Sbarramento Pian dei Morti, Italy.
Sbarramento Pian dei Morti, Italy. Image by Marco Gioia

The project investigates the relationship between the buildings and their landscape and the current social context. The project is curated by Spazi Indecisi, a multi-disciplinary collective that aims to give value to abandoned spaces.

An interior example of Russia's abandoned totalitarian architecture.
Cinema Moscow, Russia. Image by Stephanie Avery

“Totally Lost is a developing path that poses questions” says Spazi Indecisi in a statement. “Will this architectural heritage ever be free from the ideology that produced it, becoming a container of new and democratic content? Will it become archaeology?” The collective say they hope the buildings can get a new lease of life, free from their oppressive history.

Defenders of Stara Zagora, Bulgaria.
Defenders of Stara Zagora, Bulgaria. Image by Peter Franc

“Because of this cultural re-appropriation of totalitarian architecture and the 20th century ideologies with which they are tied, they can truly be an identifying element of our continent.” The exhibition will also be displayed offline in September. From 9-18 and 23-25, the project will tour around 3 buildings linked to the fascist regime in the Forlì area.

Church of the leprosy station Sanatorio de Abona, Tenerife.
Church of the leprosy station Sanatorio de Abona, Tenerife. Image by Joakim Berndes

A huge variety of countries have still-standing examples of this abandoned totalitarian architecture, including Ukraine, France and Latvia, but currently Italy is leading the way with the most entries, perhaps as a result of their eclectic take on fascist architecture. Many of the buildings in the project try and evoke awe through their sheer size and simple lines. However, other buildings would not look out of place on the set of Star Wars or an art gallery.

An example of Italy's abandoned totalitarian architecture
Villa Girasole, Italy Image by Linthout Lorenzo

Organisers of Totally Lost say the high submission rate from photographers is proof of the importance of the project and forces people to think about “how to envision these areas in the future.”

TOTALLY LOST 2013 | Spazi Indecisi [ENG] from spazi indecisi on Vimeo.