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Spanish photographer’s prizewinning images of Spain’s burst housing bubble

Markel Redondo used drones to capture these striking images of the country’s abandoned property developments

Housing development in Zaragoza.
Housing development in Zaragoza.

Basque photographer Markel Redondo traveled across Spain in 2010 to capture the abandoned housing developments left behind after the country’s property bubble burst. Between 2000 and 2008, around five million homes were built in Spain, many of them along the country’s extensive Mediterranean coastline, while others were part of vast residential estates constructed on greenfield sites, often in rural or protected areas. But the housing market collapsed, leaving hundreds of thousands of new and unfinished properties unsold throughout the country.

Aerial view of one of the abandoned buildings in San Mateo de Gállego, in Zaragoza. Click to enlarge. ampliar foto
Aerial view of one of the abandoned buildings in San Mateo de Gállego, in Zaragoza. Click to enlarge.
Tiles in a property in Buñuel, Navarra. Click to enlarge. ampliar foto
Tiles in a property in Buñuel, Navarra. Click to enlarge.

“Being in these places is strange, they make you feel like you are the last human on Earth, looking at the ruins,” Redondo told Verne. Following his plan to repeat the project in a distant future, Redondo returned to the sites this year. But this time, for his second series Sand Castles II, Redondo used a drone.

“My only frustration with Sand Castles I [the first series from 2010] was that the images were taken from the ground, you don’t get the perspective of how big everything is,” explains the 39-year-old photographer.

Ciudad Jardin Soto Real housing development in Buniel, Burgos. Click to enlarge. ampliar foto
Ciudad Jardin Soto Real housing development in Buniel, Burgos. Click to enlarge.
Unfinished complex in Pego, Alicante. Click to enlarge. ampliar foto
Unfinished complex in Pego, Alicante. Click to enlarge.

Having received his drone pilot license, Redondo presented his work to the Drone Photography Award and in 2017 he was named the winner. As part of the prize his images will be featured in the British Journal of Photography. The complete series can also seen on Redondo’s website and in an exhibition in London.

After being announced the winner, the photographer from Bilbao set about choosing which sites to photograph. “Many I had already visited but others I discovered after finishing the first series and I wanted to photograph them as well,” he says. Using Google Earth, Redondo looked at what he could find at each development before settling on 12 sites.

“I spent three weeks between January and February traveling and photographing the places,” he says. He also shared many of the images and videos on his Instagram account:

Fortuna Hill Nature and Residential Golf Resort. 11.212 inhabitants expected #sandcastles

Una publicación compartida de Markel Redondo (@markelredondo) el

Bella Rotja housing development, Pego, Alicante, Spain.

Una publicación compartida de Markel Redondo (@markelredondo) el

Calatrava tourist complex. 1.304 inhabitants were expected. Villamayor de Calatrava, Spain. #sandcastles

Una publicación compartida de Markel Redondo (@markelredondo) el

The idea for Sand Castles I, the first series on the housing projects that surged during the property boom only to be abandoned, occurred to Redondo in 2010 when he was working in the south of Spain for a French publication. “I found many abandoned developments and I began to get interested in them,” he recalls. “That’s how I started noting down all the places I discovered, I did research and I began to photograph them.”

The project ended two years later – images can be seen here – and since then Redondo has always thought about going back to see how they had changed. What’s more, a drone offered a new perspective. “From the ground the magnitude of some places can’t be seen,” he explains. Aerial photographs on the other hand capture the enormity of the housing developments, the symmetric beauty of the abandoned buildings and the absurdity of the some of the works, like a roundabout that goes nowhere.

Roundabout in Alba de Tormes, Salamanca. Click to enlarge. ampliar foto
Roundabout in Alba de Tormes, Salamanca. Click to enlarge.
Development in Mojácar, Almería. Click to enlarge. ampliar foto
Development in Mojácar, Almería. Click to enlarge.

Redondo says the places he visited more than five years ago haven’t changed. The only difference is they have now been gutted. “Everything that could be stolen was stolen: copper wiring, manhole covers,” he explains. “The rest is the same.”

The complete series Sand Castles II can be seen on Redondo’s website and for those interested in how the photographs were produced, the British Journal of Photography has produced this video:

Is Spain facing another property bubble?

  • Home rental prices have increased between 8.9% and 18.4% in 2017, according to real estate websites Fotocasa and Idealista. Meanwhile, six in every 10 evictions is related to rent default.
  • The cost of buying a house has jumped by 8% a year, the highest rate in recent times. According to analyst Raymond Rorres, it is too soon to talk about a housing bubble given that prices have risen mostly in the center of big cities and tourist areas, but not generally across the country.
  • In Madrid, the cost of an apartment in the neighborhoods Salamanca, Chamberí, Centro and Retiro is now greater than the record-high prices reached during the property bubble.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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