A horse trains beneath an underpass in London, England. Gisela Erlacher

An artist finds hidden pockets of life beneath the expressways and bridges of cities in China, the Netherlands, and the U.K.

In 2011, photographer Gisela Erlacher visited Chongqing city in China and became fascinated with urban “under-spaces”—small, unlikely pockets of life wedged between or tucked away under towering megastructures like expressways and bridges. She’d seen these before. Near her home in Vienna, Austria, stood a tiny house, with its roof just a few feet under two mammoth highways.

“But the inhabitants stayed,” Erlacher told CityLab via email. “I was deeply touched by that.”

After she encountered these forgotten spaces in China, Erlacher embarked on a four-year project to photograph them. In Chongqing and Shanghai, as well as in cities in Europe, she peeked beneath massive concrete structures to uncover signs of humanity. Her photos are collected in a new book, Skies of Concrete. Here’s how the press release describes it:

With Skies of Concrete, Austrian architectural photographer Gisela Erlacher explores a fascinating subject for urbanization—our ability to live, work, and play in what might seem like the most inhospitable of places.

While taking the photos for her book, Erlacher noticed some regional trends. In Chongquing, for example, these hidden spaces contained benches, parks, and tea houses where older folks could relax. In Europe, on the other hand, younger people typically occupied playgrounds and skate parks located in the shadows of colossal infrastructure.

But if there’s was one big lesson that Erlacher believes applies across the board, it’s that rapid, functionality-driven urbanization over the past couple of decades didn’t occur uniformly. “Now we (and future generations) need to come to terms with the consequences,” she says.

Check out some of Erlacher’s images below:

Shanghai, China
Shanghai, China
Chongqing, China
Chongqing, China
Ötztal-Bahnhof, Austria
Amsterdam, Netherlands
London, U.K.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A self-driving Volvo SUV in Scottsdale, Arizona. The company has halted testing of its autonomous vehicle program in the wake of a fatal crash on Sunday.

    How the Self-Driving Dream Might Become a Nightmare

    What will happen if we just accept that a certain number of pedestrian deaths are an inevitable part of adopting autonomous vehicles?

  2. Equity

    The Austin Bombings Were Terrifying. But Were They 'Terrorism'?

    Absent a motive, the serial bombing attacks in Texas hadn’t been labeled with the term. Now, police say the suspect has been killed.

  3. A woman at a homeless encampment in Anaheim, California

    The Unhappy States of America

    Even with the economy humming, Americans are feeling more anxious, depressed, and dissatisfied with their lives than they did in 2009.

  4. A young refugee from Kosovo stands in front of a map of Hungary with her teacher.

    Who Maps the World?

    Too often, men. And money. But a team of OpenStreetMap users is working to draw new cartographic lines, making maps that more accurately—and equitably—reflect our space.

  5. POV

    The Gateway Project Doesn't Need Trump's Approval

    The $30 billion rail tunnel project may be a victim of President Trump’s feud with Democrats. But New York and New Jersey could still save it.