Is this the most other-worldly architecture on earth? Incredible pictures capture monolithic structures that look truly alien
- Berkshire-based Mark O’Neill first became hooked on Brutalist architecture after a childhood trip to Bulgaria
- He often shoots at night and uses hand-held torches and long exposures to achieve his spectacular images
- Mark’s photographs include shots of jagged rock structures and imposing but now faded monuments
They may look like relics of an alien civilisation, but these structures are actually Brutalist monuments and war memorials found across Central and Southeastern Europe.
The architectural jaw-droppers – some of which now lie abandoned – have been captured in a set of stunning photographs by British photographer Mark O’Neill.
The Berkshire-based photographer’s obsession with Brutalism in the former Yugoslavia and surrounding countries began in 2011 when he visited Bulgaria with his parents.
The intriguing Monument to the Revolution of the People in Croatia overlooks the small town of Podgarić
The astonishing Memorial House of the Bulgarian Communist Party, on Buzludzha Peak, was built ‘as a tribute to the socialist movement in Bulgaria’, according to a website dedicated to the building, and opened in 1981. It is now abandoned and its interior covered in graffiti. Still, people travel from far and wide to gaze upon this UFO-esque wonder
It’s possible to take a tour of the Buzludzha monument. The spectacular view is one of the attractions
The Gligino Brdo monument in Bosnia stands at 10 metres tall (32 feet) and is shaped like a flower, but vandalism and graffiti are both evident on the exterior at the bottom
The stunning Spomen Park in Serbia features a monument of tunnels and large triangular structures, all erected in 1981 to pay tribute to Partisans who took on the Germans in World War II
This quirky monument located near Makljen, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was erected in 1978 and was built to pay tribute to Partisans who were killed during the Battle of the Wounded (the Battle of Neretva) in 1943
‘The unusual structures work well with my style of photography and are visually impressive, but I became absorbed by the stories behind the monuments,’ Mark said.
‘Located in former war zones, many of them have become victims of their political environment and bear the scars to show it. Some were subject to military occupation during the Balkan conflicts and it’s not unusual to find bullet-holes and spent ammunition around the sites.’
Mark’s photographs include incredible shots of jagged rock structures and huge, imposing monuments whose glory have faded over time. Some boast chilling clues to a war-ravaged past, while some have either been vandalised or left to decay.
The famous Petrova Gora Monument in Croatia was built in 1981 on the highest peak of the mountain range of the same name and pays tribute to those who died in World War II
The 65ft Monument to the Detachment in Croatia’s Brezovica Forest was built after the death of the original elm tree that grew on the site of a World War II memorial
Situated in Bosnia, the jagged, symmetrical Tjentište monument commemorates the Battle of the Sutjeska in 1943 when Axis powers attacked Partisan forces
Due to its remote location and protected status within a national park, the Monument to the Revolution in Bosnia escaped vandalism during the war-torn 1990s
The Monument to Fallen Soldiers in Serbia is all jagged, geometrical shapes that rise out of the ground impressively
The Stone Sleeper monument in Šumarice Memorial Park in Serbia is shaped to resemble haystacks, to pay tribute to farmers and peasants who were slaughtered by the Nazis in World War II
The grand Bulgarian-Soviet friendship monument in Varna is an ageing Brutalist relic built to embody the countries’ Communist regimes
The stunning Barutana – Memorial to the Fallen of the Lješanska Nahija Region – stands proud like a huge tree with mountain ranges in the background
This sleek, curved stone structure in Grmeč in Bosnia and Herzegovina – the Monument to the Revolution – is reflected in an adjacent lake
This stunning interior shot of the Monument to the Revolution reveals broken stone and moss-covered walls
Mark trained his lens on places like the Battle of Sutjeska Memorial Monument Park – situated in what is now Bosnia – which paid tribute to Communist leader Tito but became a minefield during the devastating Balkan wars between 1991 and 2001.
Other monuments and buildings – like the 12-story Petrova Gora monument in Croatia – were also used by the military during the conflicts.
All now stand either empty, in disrepair or in readiness for restoration, thanks to a new surge in interest and popularity for Brutalist masterpieces.
Mark has captured these amazing pieces of history in both daylight and at night, with some of the more stunning results coming after he camped out during darkness to achieve the perfect, spooky shot.
The Kosmaj memorial complex in Serbia is home to this stunning star-shaped structure, which Mark photographed against an equally starry night sky
Mark often uses torches worn on his head to produce stunning effects, like this image taken in Šušnjar Monument Complex in Bosnia
The stunning Stone Flower monument in Croatia was built in 1966 and dedicated to victims of atrocities committed at the Jasenovac concentration camp, a camp run by the Croatian government in league with Nazi Germany
The huge and ominous Viktorovac Cemetery Monument in Sisak, Croatia, pictured here pointing towards the night sky
Abandoned or neglected sites such as the Stratište Memorial Complex in Jabuka, Serbia, make for superbly spooky images, especially if taken at night
Monuments – or ‘spomeniks’ – are dotted around the former Yugoslavia and offer a sobering reminder of the old country’s war-torn past
‘I like to capture photographs between dusk and dawn,’ he continued. ‘With light being the medium of photography, the night becomes my blank canvas and allows me creative freedom.
‘Using a hand-held torch to illuminate structures, I can pick out the individual elements I want to work with and combine my lighting with the effects of a long exposure to create a surreal aesthetic. Visiting these places at night also brings a completely different element to exploring a foreign land.’
Visit Mark’s Instagram page or website to see more of his work.
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