The vast urban sprawl of Lombardy, Italy’s most industrialised region, has given life to nameless spots that seem to exist autonomously, with little dialogue with the landscape. Inspired by Rem Koolhaas’ essay Junkspace (2001), this photoessay by Simone Ludovico shows the only moment in which nowhere adorns itself to become memorable.
“Junkspace is post-existential: it makes you uncertain where you are, it makes you unclear where you are going, it destroys the place where you were”.
Rem Koolhaas, Junkspace, 2001
Starting from Koolhaas’s text on the junk spaces of contemporary cities, I began a journey to observe places which, during the Christmas holidays, are filled with bright installations. My journey always starts when the “heure bleue” (blue hour) starts, the evening falls and the lights suddenly come on.
The areas I have crossed are located outside the main towns of western Lombardy, they rest in the outlying areas, along provincial roads, or next to those roadside markets scattered throughout the out-of-town territory. These are spaces characterised by commercial development, which extends linearly as it crawls along major transport axes, iconically characterising low-density residential areas.
These zones have been transformed by urban sprawl, by the city that has grown by expanding untidily, leaving behind, here and there, silent urban clusters. Geographically, the territories belong, in part, to the irrigated Po Valley. Over the past 50 years, this once agricultural region has seen a drastic transformation of the land as a result of the expanding residential and industrial zones. The agricultural countryside and the urbanised countryside merge into each other, creating a liminal space.
I visit the parking lots of the shopping centres, those of the industrial areas, the residual spaces at the edges of the streets, the petrol stations; giant scaffolding turns into giant Christmas trees, entire facades of banal sheds shine surrounded by luminous threads, expanses of parking lots host glittering metal cones.
Perhaps these insignificant spaces in themselves need to be taken care of, once a year, with a luminous revolution that redeems them from anonymity? Perhaps these structures, as individuals who, affected by rickets, need solar rays, they need luminous devices to reveal their own identity?
The journey ends at the end of January when the lights go out and all that remains is to wait for the arrival of a new Christmas to see these places shine in the night.
Images © Simone Ludovico
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