These Abandoned Soviet Buildings Got A Hauntingly Gorgeous Makeover

It can be hard to imagine a bygone era, especially when the buildings of that era are abandoned shells of their former selves.

Ryan Koopmans, a Canadian-Dutch digital artist and photographer, and Alice Wexell, a Swedish digital artist and photographer, have given these old spaces new life with a project called “The Wild Within.” The work captures abandoned buildings in and around the Georgian town of Tskaltubo, but it’s not just a photography series. The duo digitally added vegetation to create animated images that brought the buildings to life too.

The stately columns, large rooms, high ceilings, and intricate decoration hint at the region’s past as a popular health spa destination, known for its luxe accommodations during the Soviet era. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the buildings have been abandoned, and the lack of upkeep has taken a toll. Koopmans and Wexell vividly capture the interplay between architectural grandeur and natural overgrowth.

[Image: courtesy Ryan Koopmans and Alice Wexell]
The pair visited the region and photographed its ruins over several years, capturing the stark contrast between its current dilapidated condition and the grandness of its former Soviet heyday. They then digitally added vegetation and modeled the spaces to create animated images that look like short videos of the plant life in a faint breeze.

[Image: courtesy Ryan Koopmans and Alice Wexell]
The final images enhance the light and color of these formerly monumental halls and add flowers in complementary colors. The treatment turns faded pinks into a luscious rose, compliments a periwinkle ballroom with a wide floor of purple flowers, and enhances the warmth of a Tuscan yellow performance hall with a shot of direct sunlight through an open window.

Koopmans says they hope the viewer feels a “surreal collision between the past and future” and between the digital and physical worlds. He says he wanted to “create a sense of surreal tranquility while referencing the themes of urban exploration, architectural history, and the resurgence of nature.” Koopmans also noted that some of the building have been demolished in the past few months—a sad real-life confirmation of this project’s emphasis on renewal and decay. You can buy the works as NFTs here.

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June 11 2021 | Lilly Smith