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Gisela Erlacher - Skies of Concrete

With Skies of Concrete, Austrian architectural photographer Gisela Erlacher explores a fascinating subject for urbanization—our ability to live, work, and play in what might seem like the most inhospitable of places. Erlacher had long been fascinated with the ways existing structures are modified to meet new transport needs, but a house wedged between two bridges in her native Vienna inspired a more extensive exploration of the leftover spaces. Erlacher traveled to China, Britain, and the Netherlands, capturing exquisite photographs of bridges, viaducts, and multistory highways, which focus specifically on the vacant and disused spaces and situations created by their construction. Beneath and between these structures, we find housing, parking, and storage, but also skate parks, tea houses, and food stalls in varying shades of legality.

Lavishly illustrated and featuring essays by landscape architect Lilli Licka and art historian Peter Lodermeyer, Gisela Erlacher—Skies of Concrete presents a powerful picture of the designed urban environment and the broader condition of contemporary society.

112 pages | 43 color plates | 9 x 12 1/2 | © 2015

Architecture: European Architecture

Art: Photography

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“For Skies of Concrete, [Erlacher] traveled within Austria and to the Netherlands, Great Britain, and China to find pockets of human activity crammed and wedged beneath towering bridges and roadways. Among the many surreal spaces she unearthed are a colorful jungle gym beneath the criss-cross of looming overpasses; an adventure-park ropes course installed beneath a railway bridge in the Alps; and two men in Chongqing, China, dwarfed by concrete above and below, lounging as if on a garden patio. . . . If these scenes are testaments to the eerie effects of urbanization, they also celebrate the resourcefulness and ingenuity of those who continue to ride horses or grow flowers in leftover spaces.”

New Yorker

“Fascinating. . . . For most people, bridges are simply a way of getting from one place to another. Nobody gives them much thought to what might lie beneath them. Look closely, though, and you’ll find homes, shops, parks, and other wonderful things. . . . The photos marry the cold, monumental architecture of bridges and highways with surprising vignettes of daily life.”


“With the development of transportation infrastructure in the twentieth century, much of our urban land was shrouded in shadow. Overpasses and underpasses for highways, and towering concrete bridges for cars and trains, claimed thousands of miles of open space. As the human population continues to grow, those places are becoming more valuable. Around the world, formerly disused underpasses are being developed into parks, housing, soccer fields, and even horse paddocks. Gisela Erlacher—Skies of Concrete examines how such places are being adapted for practical.”


"Erlacher's photos give a kind of magical quality to these leftover spaces that have been creatively transformed—either officially or otherwise—into useful parts of an urban landscape. But they also highlight the fact that in most major metropolises, space is a finite resource."

Fast Co. Design

“In 2011, Erlacher visited Chongqing city in China and became fascinated with urban ‘under-spaces’—small, unlikely pockets of life wedged between or tucked away under towering megastructures like expressways and bridges. She’d seen these before. Near her home in Vienna, Austria, stood a tiny house, with its roof just a few feet under two mammoth highways. Erlacher embarked on a four-year project to photograph these forgotten spaces. In Chongqing and Shanghai, as well as in cities in Europe, she peeked beneath massive concrete structures to uncover signs of humanity.”

CityLab, the Atlantic

“If you’ve traveled to cities such as Shanghai, London, or Amsterdam, chances are you’ve noticed expressways and bridges that take over like the long arms of an octopus. Gisela Erlacher noticed them, too, although the photographer started to pay closer attention to what was happening beneath these concrete structures rather than what was on top of them.”

Slate, Behold: The Photo Blog

Table of Contents

Gisela Erlacher - Skies of Concrete
Gisela Erlacher

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