Digital artists help nature reclaim abandoned Soviet architecture

Design is not always literal: it is interpretive and often imaginative, with the ability to inspire us while redefining the meanings of space and time. And that’s just part of what can be achieved when artists creatively blend digital technology with an eye for reimagining existing spaces.

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Formerly luxurious Soviet-era interior transformed with digital greenery as part of

Formerly luxurious Soviet-era interior transformed with digital greenery as part of

In their installation “The Wild Within”, Dutch-Canadian artist/photographer Ryan Koopmans and Swedish digital artist/photographer Alice Wexell take this kind of creative reimagining to the next level by blending past and present through a combination digital and physical, breathing exciting new life into abandoned Soviet-era architecture.

Abandoned building from the Soviet era before the digital magic of Koopmans and Wexell was harnessed.

Abandoned building from the Soviet era before the digital magic of Koopmans and Wexell was harnessed.

Abandoned Soviet-era building after Koopmans and Wexell's digital magic worked.

Abandoned Soviet-era building after Koopmans and Wexell’s digital magic worked.

The project began when the creative duo visited the Georgian town of Tskaltubo, taking photos over a period of years of the many ruins that exist throughout the region. Inspired by the shattered and shattered remnants that now hold the place of luxury and splendor, the duo collaborated to create a new vision: “a surreal collision between the past and the future”.

The abandoned buildings, left in various states of disrepair and disrepair, provided the perfect backdrop for the two artists. Using their combined experience in the world of digital art, the duo juxtaposed the vibrant greens of nature with the stark but stark remains of buildings that have seen no life since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The town of Tskaltubo was once a bustling destination known for its healing waters and luxurious spas. The buildings now left to rot and corrode were once vast, glorious peons representing the greatest wealth and influence of the Soviet Union at the height of its power. Abandoned since the 1980s, they have been left to decay and collapse – a somewhat apt, if not cruel, metaphor.

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Thanks to Koopmans and Wexell, these spaces are renewed thanks to the magic of modern technology. By creating moving images of lush vegetation and bright flowers and cleverly integrating them into the existing architecture, the duo have created something new and beautiful. The photos literally come to life, transforming into videos that are haunting, surreal and a stark reminder of how man-made structures can be abandoned while being given new life through their return to nature.

Formerly luxurious Soviet-era interior transformed with digital greenery as part of

Formerly luxurious Soviet-era interior transformed with digital greenery as part of

The project is ambitious but prescient, as some of the sites have since been demolished in real life. But the nostalgic video series will live on as a testament to the beauty that can be found even in the ruins of former greatness. Koopmans hopes the work will create “a sense of surreal tranquility while referencing themes of urban exploration, architectural history and the resurgence of nature.” This video series certainly does that, as it poignantly reflects how nature reclaims what is hers long after man has abandoned it.

Formerly luxurious Soviet-era interior transformed with digital greenery as part of

Formerly luxurious Soviet-era interior transformed with digital greenery as part of

Watching the breeze gently cut through the greenery and weave its way through the once splendid and magnificent architecture is a bittersweet experience. Yet, it reminds us once again of the power of design and its ability to transform our environment, sometimes even to regain what has been abandoned or lost.

Marilyn M. Davis