Photographer Nigel Green surveys post-war Picardy in Reconstruction at UCA Canterbury

By Culture24 Reporter | 19 January 2012
A photo of a post-modernist building under a blue sky
© Tergnier
Exhibition: Nigel Green: Reconstruction, Herbert Read Gallery, University for the Creative Arts Canterbury, January 20 – February 14 2012

The sort of buildings Nigel Green works with – a Nuclear Power Station at Dungeness, Bexhill's spookily anachronistic De La Warr Pavilion – might have prepared him well for Reconstruction, a photographic project documenting the modernist architecture of Picardy, an area in Northern France which was ravaged during the First and Second World Wars.

A photo of a tall grey triangular building on grassland
Estrees© Nigel Green
He describes the landscape as "distinct and inescapable", shaped by planners forced to create a "uniquely 20th century environment" from scratch.

Most interestingly for Green, the ethos he terms "vernacular modernism" called upon a spectrum of styles, using Art Deco, modernism, functionalism, constructivism and industrial designs to piece back together towns and villages.

"It is my hope," he says, "that the photographs I have taken reflect something of this diversity. I have not concentrated on the grand public buildings or those considered to be exceptional, but have rather sought to celebrate the ordinary and quotidian."

As with his previous Reconstruction portraits, for the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Calais a decade ago, there's a sense of bleakness and desolation to these mid-20th century facades, the ruins of history replaced by clinical spheres and blocks.

His work in Calais featured at the local Museum of Fine Art, but he's also exhibited at a number of French architectural venues, and a commission for the De La Warr saw him study six buildings for an exhibition celebrating the 175th anniversary of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

This project was overseen by the Picardy-based Diaphane photographic group, and originally published in Amiens. Its UK debut is a must for anyone intrigued by how architectural photography and fine art can converge.

  • Open Monday-Friday 10am-5pm. Admission free.

More pictures:


A photo of a tall thin spire-like structure on heathland
Hirson-Buire© Nigel Green
A photo of a wide grey block of urban flats
Amiens© Nigel Green
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