Sometime in the near future, eleven of New York City’s most famous landmarks have gone missing. Soon, they start to turn up in the some of the most desolate locations on the planet—perched high in a red rock mountain range, buried in a white sand desert—but no one knows why.
That’s the concept behind Misplaced, an architectural science fiction story that erases New York buildings from busy Manhattan streets and drops them into barren landscapes. Photographer Anton Repponen worked with writer Jon Earle to weave the eleven images into a narrative that imagines the buildings have mysteriously exiled themselves. “Was there foul-play involved?” asks a beautifully designed site for the project, which also asks for tips from readers to help solve the mystery: “Your curiosity and help is much appreciated.”
While the images are striking on their own—they could certainly be scenic paintings from a future Star Wars film—the project also provides some wry commentary on the globalization of design. Considering how fast megacities are erected in places like China, the idea that these buildings might sprout in the some of the world’s most least-populated places is not so far-fetched.
I especially appreciate this caption for a Guggenheim Museum that’s dropped into a Martian-looking landscape, where it almost looks more at home than it does on Fifth Avenue. In part, this narrative is already coming true, as a “Guggenheim in every city” wouldn’t be so far-fetched for what has become the world’s most famous museum franchise:
Guggenheim museums began sprouting across the globe, from the Basque Country to faraway Dubai, until there was nowhere else for them to grow. The board of directors sent agents to scour the earth for primitive lands that knew nothing of modern and contemporary art. At last word arrived of such a place. A check was written, migrant workers hired, and a museum rose from the volcanic mudflats of X. Ticket sales have been sluggish.
While many of the landscapes look otherworldly, Repponen assures me that they are all of this Earth—and he photographed them personally. Most of the locations are on the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Lanai, but a few were taken in the Jericoacora desert in Brazil, and a handful of others are from Costa Rican volcanoes. In fact, Repponen wrote a detailed technical breakdown of how the composite images were made, which gives some interesting insight into his technique, and why the buildings look so striking when isolated from their normal surroundings.
The entire series is worth viewing on the project’s website. And if at the end you think, like I did, that these would make excellent artwork to give as gifts to the displaced New Yorkers in your lives, you’re in luck. There are lovely prints for sale, as well.