Nicolas Grospierre


When and where was this photograph shot?

This was shot in an indoor swimming pool, at a Balneological Sanatorium in Druskininkai, Lithuania, in October 2003.

What was the sort of conditions on site?

The conditions on site where typical of that of an abandoned building: mild temperature but quite humid, rather dark but contrasty lighting, the silence was interrupted periodically by dripping water droplets, the smell was that of moulded gypsum. On the whole, it was a rather unpleasant atmosphere.

Can you specify some technical aspects about the shooting?

The actual taking of the picture was quite elementary: long exposure and small aperture for wide depth of field. I used a very wide angle (40 mm) on a Hasselblad camera

How did you get inside?

I broke into this abandoned structure. It was locked, but not all the entrances were hermetically sealed, so I managed to get inside without breaking any windows. I learned about this building through a vintage Soviet book on architecture entitled “The architecture of Soviet Lithuania”.

Was it your first time there?

I had been a few weeks earlier on the site, but was not utterly satisfied with the results, and therefore I decided to make another trip to make additional pictures.

Why did you select this image?

I selected this image because it is quite representative of my work, as far as my documenting little known Soviet architecture. I have a strong feeling to the whole series that this image is part of – entitled Hydroklinika – because it is one of the most original and delirious concrete buildings I was able to photograph, and also because it does not exist any longer in this particular form. The whole structure was transformed into an aquapark, and the interiors were destroyed in the process.

What were you trying to communicate through it?

Well, in this part of my work (the documentation of modernist architecture, mostly from the former socialist countries),  I try to convey as objective as possible a view on buildings I deem interesting. Of course, the choice of buildings is subjective, and reflects my preferences, and here one should look for the meaning of this work, and not in the single image. I have been documenting this kind of architecture for 13 years now, because when I started to do it it was quite neglected and unknown. I thought it was interesting because it broke the conventional thinking about socialist architecture (namely that it were mostly boring grey blocks of flats), and that, on the contrary, there were extraordinary gems that should be exposed – and perhaps salvaged. Also, this sometimes crazy architecture showed yet another side of the communist system, that it were able to produce an architecture which need not be economically viable to see the light of day. By this, I am not trying in any way to justify this system, I am simply pointing out that this feature, which ultimately led to its demise (precisely because of the lack of economic accountability) produced also extraordinary results.

This is an excerpt of an interview which is part of the editorial project “1 Photo(grapher)” and originally published for Scopio Network.