“We need to remember these places, what we did here and what we should learn for the future,” says photographer Markel Redondo. “We need to know that these buildings are still there.”

Markel Redondo: Sand Castles (Part II) from 1854 Media on Vimeo.

Markel Redondo started noticing them when he was in Andalucia in 2008. Hundreds of empty houses and apartments across the south of Spain, unsold projects that had become ghost towns waiting for owners that would never come. “It was the time of the crisis,” the 39-year-old photographer from Bilbao remembers. “Many developers went bankrupt.”

After a decade of astonishing growth in the housing market, the bubble had burst. Unemployment climbed to 20 percent in 2008, peaking in 2013 at 27 percent with heavy losses in the construction sector. Housing prices would eventually decrease in 37 percent between 2007 and 2013. Redondo became obsessed with these empty neighborhoods which had come to symbolize what was wrong with Spain’s economy. He started driving around the country looking for them for what would become his photo series, “Sand Castles.” A decade later, he has published the second part of the project, “Sand Castles (Part II).”

(Markel Redondo)

“I always thought that it would be interesting to see what would happen here in the future, when the crisis would come to an end,” Redondo says. “Little by little, I got to the idea to take photos from up in the air, which would finally allow you to see the magnitude of this.”

Redondo received a DJI Drone Photography Award, which gave him a grant that financed a new tour around Spain, this time using drones to capture aerial photos and video.

(Markel Redondo)

“Many of these sites are now locked down or there is security. And from the ground I was always frustrated because I didn’t had a shooting angle that would give a general perspective,” Redondo explains. “From the air this all becomes easier to understand.”

In three weeks, the photographer went to 12 sites around the country, many of them in the south. From an aesthetic point of view, he was surprised by what he found: “staircases going nowhere, strange shapes, the geometries of the roof of a house. These are little treasures that before where imperceptible for me.”

But he says that the value of these images goes beyond their eerie beauty, especially in the current optimistic national context, where construction seems to be robust again.

(Markel Redondo)

“In Spain, you don’t talk about these sites anymore,” Redondo explains. “They are far from the cities, a little lost from plain sight. And politicians are always telling us that Spain is better—that we are growing again.” These projects remain there as scars in the landscape, without plans to either finish them or demolish them.

“Nobody wants to be responsible of this,” the photographer adds. “We need to remember these places, what we did here and what we should learn for the future. We need to know that these buildings are still there.”

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of Andrew Field, the owner of Rockaway Taco, looking out from his store in the Rockaway Beach neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York.
    Life

    Tacos and Transit: Rate Your City

    From taco-rich San Diego to the tortilla wastelands of Boston, we asked you to grade U.S. cities on two critical metrics: Mexican food and public transportation.

  2. Apple's planned new campus in Austin, Texas.
    Life

    Why Apple Bet on Austin’s Suburbs for Its Next Big Expansion

    By adding thousands more jobs outside the Texas capital, Apple has followed a tech expansion playbook that may just exacerbate economic inequality.

  3. A pupil works on a cardboard architectural model at a Hong Kong primary school.
    Design

    The Case for Architecture Classes in Schools

    Through the organization Architecture for Children, Hong Kong architect Vicky Chan has taught urban design and planning to thousands of kids. Here’s why.

  4. A photo of shoppers in the central textile market of downtown Jakarta.
    Design

    How Cities Design Themselves

    Urban planner Alain Bertaud’s new book, Order Without Design, argues that cities are really shaped by market forces, not visionaries.

  5. The Metropolitan Opera House in New York
    Equity

    How Urban Core Amenities Drive Gentrification and Increase Inequality

    A new study finds that as the rich move back to superstar cities' urban cores to gain access to unique amenities they drive low-income people out.