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Deconstructing Cities with Espen Dietrichson



The photographs suspend large, individual pieces of buildings in the air, parts of concrete panels and windows taken together as a whole and presented apart from one another, as though in the midst of a very tidy explosion. The result is a series of images titled Variations on a Dark City—a deft marriage of the real and the surreal, one part architectural plan and two parts Christopher Nolan CGI.

Norwegian artist Espen Dietrichson’s work specializes in the analytical and geometric. Instead of piecing things together, he pulls them pulls them apart to reorganize them in a new, conceptual way. In this, it becomes impossible to accept the status quo. Dietrichson—in his photographs, particularly—pushes past the boundaries of the present into some futuristic otherworld that, with vague notes of the familiar, seems as possible as it does impossible.

ISAORA talks to the Oslo-based artist about the process in capturing his images, championing architectural underdogs, and the roles buildings play in cities.

Was there a particular building that first inspired your Variations on a Dark City building series?

Variations on a Dark City was a series I did when I did a residency in Lyon, France, ending up in a show at Galerie Roger Tator in the same city. I have done several of these architectural collages/silkscreens, and the method is often similar. I did not start with a particular building, but I walked around in Lyon for several days photographing things I thought I could work with. It is a very intuitive process. I do not search for something in particular, but I know when I find something that is right.

What type of architecture interests you the most and why?

I am interested in architecture which is not the most famous architecture, but that is fit for my project. I would never do a Corbusier building. Instead, I find it more inspiring to find buildings that were built after its style golden era. I have done some late-era Brutalist architecture buildings, and some second-generation Brutalist buildings from the early eighties.

I am not so interested in the Virtuous architecture that comes out of the possibility to engineer extremely complex forms, due to computer-aided drawing. I like architecture that comes from the traditional function-based idea, but that has tweaks that are totally unnecessary. For example, in one of the prints, “Variations on a Dark City #3,” all the facade elements with windows are the cast from the same form, but have a “We are in the Space Age” touch to it… it gives it an un-streamlined look. I reflect on these things in my work, but having said this, overall my work is not to make a statement in a debate about architecture. 

What impact do you think buildings have on the cities in which people live?

The buildings are the cities, as the trees are the forest. When I go to make some errands in a new place, I always have at least one day off to take pictures for these collages. When I search for the right building, I often look for the slightly different buildings—the ones that almost fit, but not totally. It makes it easier to isolate it later. 

Do you think buildings impact/influence the psychology of the people who live in them?

They might, but it’s not my main concern. In my collages, I have removed all the people, or at least the ones I could find. The buildings in my collages are, by themselves, expressions of various states of mind.

Images courtesy of Espen Dietrichson.