New East Digital Archive

How nature reclaims abandoned architecture — in photos

1 June 2021
Images: Jonk

French photographer Jonk has released a new book spotlighting abandoned buildings reclaimed by nature in 17 countries.

Among the places featured in Naturalia II, a sequel to the 2018 photo book Naturalia, are abandoned public buildings such as nurseries and schools, a morgue, and a dental clinic in Pripyat and Chernobyl, a former factory and Palace of Culture and Sports in Tallinn, and a Lithuanian amusement park.

For Jonk, who formerly worked in finance and is currently on his sixth photo book, Naturalia has an ecological message: “Nature is strong and, whatever happens to Man, it will always be there,” he explains.

Below, he shares the stories behind four of the places pictured in the book.

Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

“I have been to Chernobyl a few times since 2015. On my third visit, I decided to go deeper into the Zone and explore several isolated villages in the area. On that trip, I visited the ghost town of Poliske and the abandoned villages of Krasno and Mashevo, with their well-preserved schools, and Lelev, with its hospital which still remains in good condition.”

Linnahall in Tallinn

“Linnahall (originally the V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sports) is a multi-purpose venue in Tallinn, Estonia. In 1980, when Moscow hosted the Summer Olympics, the city had no suitable venue for sailing, so this task fell upon Tallinn, the capital of the then Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. As a result, a number of sports and entertainment facilities were erected, including the V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport, designed by architects Raine Karp and Riina Altmäe.

Its skating rink closed in 2009, followed by the concert hall in 2010. The city authorities searched for investors for six years, and in 2015 the city council took on the responsibility of renovating Linnahall, although the project has not come to fruition yet.

I shot the place during my trip to the three Baltic States in June 2017.”

Elektrenai amusement park

“Like Pripyat in Ukraine, Elektrenai in Lithuania was built during Soviet times to accommodate the employees of the nearby power plant. As I arrived on the premises of the Elektrenai Amusement Park, I remembered that someone had told me there might be security, or there could be a dog inside. Luckily, there was no-one, so I was able to explore and take pictures unhindered.”

Volta factory in Tallinn

“When I first read about the Volta factory, it looked as if there was a jungle inside a beautiful abandoned industrial-type building. It seemed like paradise to me, so I was very eager to visit it.

The former factory produced electric generators during Soviet times. After the collapse of the USSR, demand fell, and the factory closed.”

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