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I visited these places between 2000 and 2005, usually alone, with a camera and notebook. Dan Dubowitz

Altar, St Peter’s Seminar y, Cardross, Scotland.


Gorbals, Scotland 6 Beelitz, Germany 18 Vockerode, Germany 26 Cardross, Scotland 34 Gorton, England 44 Albergo Dei Poveri, Italy 54 San Gimignano, Italy 62 Ancoats, England 72 Orford Ness, England 92 Ellis Island, USA 106 Eastern State Penitentiary, USA 130 Habana Vieja, Cuba 138 Santa Teresa, Cuba 152 Calzada del Cerro, Cuba 164

dewi lewis publishing

dan dubowitz


The Gorbals, sitting on the opposite side of the River Clyde to Glasgow city centre, has for centuries served as the arrival point for immigrants to the city; notably refugees from the Highland clearances, the Irish famines and the Jewish pogroms and more recently from Asia and Yemen. Overcrowded and notoriously violent, after the war the area was razed to the ground to make way for the brave new modernist vision of the Glasgow Corporation with Basil Spence’s iconic high-rise blocks and the Queen Elizabeth Square shopping arcade. After only a few years, structural and social problems emerged and by 2000 the housing had been cleared. All the shops had long since closed but landlord James Clancey kept his pub open until the very end. He called last orders then handed the keys to the city’s surveyor. In the dying light of the day I had time to take these few pictures. The next day the pub, post office and bookies were all rubble.


Gorb als

Last Orders at The Queen’s, The Queen’s pub, Gorbals.


Dar tboard, The Queen’s pub, Gorbals.


The Ladies’, The Queen’s pub, Gorbals.


Post Off ice, Gorbals.


Bet Here, bookies, Queen Elizabeth Square, Gorbals.


In the late 19th century when tuberculosis ravaged Europe, Berlin built a modern new town, an entire settlement for its victims of TB. Developments in medicine meant people were surviving for years with the disease though few were cured. Beelitz was far enough outside the city for comfort but still accessible by train. It was divided into quarters large enough to accommodate an entire community of TB sufferers. Wards, long and high, were connected by grand, communal street-like corridors which were built in parallel blocks to funnel the winds between them. Patients were wheeled daily into these glazed pavilions-cum-wind tunnels. The aim was to literally drive air through the patients’ ailing bodies. One section of the town, the largest, was devoted to children: operating rooms were tiled blue for boys and pink for girls. In East Germany after the Second World War, Beelitz became a military camp and hospital for the Russian army. The anguish that these buildings accommodated and had witnessed was palpable.



Two baths, Beelitz.


X-ray theatre, Beelitz.


Operating theatre for boys, Beelitz.


In the East German industrial heartlands brown coal (peat) was openmined to power Vockerode, a vast pre-war power station near Dessau. The landscape was eaten away by giant 20-storey high machines that slowly crawled and cut into the land at a place called Ferropolis. If a coal face started to collapse, all the engines could be thrown into reverse and directed to the caterpillar wheels affording an escape speed of 18 metres an hour. Each scoop of these monster land rigs was the size of a car and the peat was transported in a perpetual convoy directly to the 1930s Vockerode power station. When German reunification came the East German industrial economy all but collapsed. In the former power station there were clocks everywhere. Today every clock reads two minutes to three, recording the precise moment at which the switch was flicked, back in 1994. The open mine is slowly filling to become a lake and Vockerode is slowly corroding.


Vo cke rode

Valves, Vockerode.


Control post, Vockerode.


Peat burner, Vockerode.


The story goes that one afternoon in the mid 1960s the Roman Catholic archbishop of Glasgow, over a round of golf, asked an architect if he would like to build a new seminary outside Glasgow on the ancient 28 acre country estate of Kilmahew House in Cardross. The architect gave the job to two ‘young turks’, Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein, and they produced St Peter’s Seminary – now widely recognized as Scotland’s best modernist building. Following the Vatican II decree that priests should no longer be trained in the countryside, St Peter’s seminary was abandoned in 1981. Later it was ‘A’ listed and became Scotland’s first ‘modernist ruin’. In 2001, in conjunction with the publication of these photographs, the Cardross Preservation Trust was formed to explore new uses and begin the search for a new owner. Only a year later a developer tried to get planning permission to all but demolish the building, and to fill the site with houses. The building is still there, just. The demolition was blocked, the Diocese of Glasgow still owns the site and the building, and a new use has yet to be found for it.


C ard ros s

Car, Cardross.


Refector y, Cardross.


Lecture Hall, Cardross.


Cell, Cardross.


In the 1800s Gorton, then a village outside Manchester, saw a massive influx of immigrants, mostly from Ireland, to man the rapidly growing train-building and cotton industries. A group of exiled Franciscan monks came from Douai to Gorton to re-establish a Catholic community. They appointed a 24 year old gothic revivalist architect, Edward Pugin son of the better known A W Pugin, to build them a monastery and church. Ambitious and determined to catch the eye of the Vatican and win a commission in Rome, Pugin designed the largest parish church of its time in the UK. Then, as now, it is visible on the horizon from miles around towering over the surrounding terraced houses. In 1989 the Franciscan monks held their last mass and sold the estate to property developers who then went bust, stripped the church of its sculptures and left the door open.


A community-based group has bought the building and raised the seven million pounds needed to bring it back into use. The saints from the nave were discovered at an auction and resided for some years in a container, awaiting reconciliation with their plinths high up in the nave. A testament to regeneration by will-power, after eight years of dogged persistence, the painstaking reconstruction is complete and the building is again open, this time for secular use and the occasional wedding.

Go r ton

Vestr y, Gor ton.


The Fall, Gor ton.


Angel, Gor ton.


Altar, Gor ton.


The ‘Real Albergo dei Poveri’ (Royal Hotel for the Poor) was built by Carlos III, the Bourbon King of Naples and Sicily, to lock up 8,000 destitute citizens and clear the streets of Naples. Carlos’s alms house complex was never completed; the extraordinary panopticon church at its centre – with its five naves to deliver Mass simultaneously to five segregated populations – was never finished. Then, as now, the Albergo was out of sync with, and set apart from, the city. Even today when stepping out from a silent Albergo room onto a balcony above Naples, the noise, the fumes and the frenetic activity that surrounds this World Heritage Site comes as a shock. Built some years before Jeremy Bentham conceived of a panopticon prison, the church was the only place where Carlos’s inmates could come together. While this panopticon church allowed the celebrants to see all, it also reinforced the regime’s and the church’s view of a God that is all seeing and knowing, and set out to control the inmates’ psyches as well as their bodies.


The five segregated sectors were for boys, girls, men and women – with a fifth for the public and administrators. Families were split up on arrival at the alms house. Many would spend their lives in the ‘hotel’ from youth or even birth. When three of the five wings were complete the Albergo boasted a 300 metre long façade and 750,000 cubic metres of space making it, apparently, the second largest public building in Europe to this day. In 1980 an earthquake killed some elderly residents and revealed that, in the rush to build, many of the arches were not connected to the walls. The painstaking reconstruction of these arches using tufa stone and traditional techniques is now underway. Five hundred million euros have been spent on this restoration, without resolving circulation, services or parking, or first securing a new use or client.

A l be r go dei Pove r i

Panopticon church, Naples.


Archive, Naples.


Corridor, Naples.


San Gimignano is a Tuscan hilltown, famous for its merchant families who built unfeasibly tall towers to try to outdo their rival neighbours. The forefathers of New York skyscrapers, these towers date from medieval times and draw thousands of tourists every day who far outweigh the number of actual inhabitants of the town. Hidden away unseen by the tourists, occupying a fifth of the walled city and still under strict lock and key, the former convent and then prison is now falling into ruins. Curiously this prison serves as a strong and essential form of respite and escape in a town with intensive land-use and a vigorous tourist trade. Successive mayors have seen the convent as an asset to be capitalised on and a space that should be freed up for development. The site is a protected historical structure that is difficult to separate from its past as a prison or to convert profitably. In this vacuum of no-change is a derelict building in full use. Each wing has its own director, and in the principal exercise yard, an appointed ‘il Presidente’, with a rescued bird on his shoulder, ponders his next move in a game of dominoes between these wing directors that may have been running for years. I passed an unlocked fridge with a glass door,


full of wine, beer, soft drinks with a converted collection box next to it. One wing serves the music school for practice rooms – one musician per cell; another is used by local archaeologists – one dig archived per cell. The palio rehearse their horse-back jousting in the courtyards. Political associations also have cells. One cell had a tile outside declaring it to be the Communist Party headquarters. It was locked, but through the grill could be seen red leatherette chairs crammed into a room presided over by a portrait of Che Guevara. To the local government the convent/prison is a wasteland, as it is not in profitable use. To the community of San Gimignano it is the one place they can still be a vibrant community and hang out, get stuff done, walled in and far enough away from their streets full of strangers rushing through their town.

San Gi mignan o

Corridor, San Gimignano.


Cell with Madonna, San Gimignano.


Cell door with Che, San Gimignano.


Towers from cell, San Gimignano.


In the 1700s the eastern border of the city of Manchester was marked by a river and fields. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution some eager industrialists sat down and planned a grid of streets and canals on that land to accommodate the production of cotton and cloth on a scale that was hitherto unimaginable. By the end of the 18th century the area, known as Ancoats, had become the world’s first planned industrial suburb, and it was in full steam. The mills grew so rapidly that they swallowed up roads. Walkways and tunnels were built to allow five consecutive blocks of mills to function as one complex. By the 1960s the cotton industry had quit Ancoats for more profitable shores and the area’s deep dark canyons provided a painful testimony to a lost era. By spring 2003 the process known locally as ‘ditching’ had begun. A window was knocked out on each floor, a giant skip and crusher worked away below as a team of workmen flung centuries of accumulated objects out of the window.


These pictures portray the presence of absence in the space’s last moment as a mill. They follow the journey of the ditchers and the industrial archaeologists over the summer of 2003 as walled up rooms, tunnels and walkways were reopened momentarily. Archaeologists uncovered a coin from 1799 as well as a child’s shoe walled up in the fabric of the building, a reminder of ancient traditions of constructing a place known as immuration. Today Ancoats is rising again as a new suburb and this time it is not to accommodate dark, noisy, crowded and perilous industry, but contemporary inner city living. These photographs and the experience of living and working in Ancoats formed the basis for ‘The Peeps’, a series of 20 or so permanent peep holes that have subsequently been built into the walls around Ancoats.

An c o ats

Jactin House, Ancoats.


Jactin House, Ancoats.


Steam press, Royal Mills, Ancoats.


Sewing room, with Sophia Loren, Murrays Mills, Ancoats.


Time clock, Royal Mills, Ancoats.


Cutting and pattern room, Royal Mills, Ancoats.


Pattern room, Royal Mills, Ancoats.


Cutting room and roof garden with rabbits, Royal Mills, Ancoats.


Pattern store, Royal Mills, Ancoats.


During the 1950s the British Ministry of Defence built a nuclear research facility at Orford Ness, a 45 hectare natural pebble spit off the east coast of England. Laboratories with 15 feet thick concrete walls were constructed to vibration test, drop test, cook, spin and assemble nuclear weapons. Cobra Mist, a top secret Cold War eavesdropping programme was established on ‘the island’ using ‘over the horizon’ backscatter radar to listen in on the Soviets. Other laboratories were devoted to centrifuge. The original testing machine was later moved to AWE Aldermaston, where it is still in use. The structures most shrouded in secrecy were the ‘pagodas’ used for mechanical and vibration testing. Their massive roofs, piled high with pebbles for extra mass, are supported on impossibly slender columns. In a nuclear blast it was planned they would give way and cap the bunker to contain an explosion. As the Cold War ended the need for Orford Ness diminished. The M.O.D. decommissioned the site and gave it to the National Trust, but not before they tested some of their samples and the labs to destruction. The enormous steel armoured doors were blown off Lab 3, known as ‘the oven’. The control room is now filled with a strange ash, in which wild hares have built a warren.


The buildings are almost unique, the only known similar construction anywhere in the world is at the nuclear testing facility in Nevada, USA. What was actually tested in them will remain a secret for decades to come. Military architecture has an aesthetic all of its own, it is highly utilitarian yet there is always something more than mere ‘form following function’. The bombs these military scientists played with were given names such as the Blue Danube or Polaris. There is a strong element of fantasy and the fantastic in the poetics and form of these spaces, not least some expression of Cold War anxiety about the end of the world. The vibration-testing chamber has a quasi-religious aesthetic. The National Trust are experts in the restoration of stately homes and making them accessible to the public, however they must be at a loss with Orford. So for now the military complex is left in its raw state and is out of bounds as a bird sanctuary takes over. Orford Ness could be around for millennia, an archaeology of the immediate past, that still embodies our fears of the present. At some point society will feel the need to interpret these abandoned structures and Orford Ness will come out of hiding and enter the national psyche.

O rfo r d Ness

Labs 4 and 5, Or ford Ness.


Lab 5, vibration testing, Or ford Ness.


Lab 3, The Oven, Or ford Ness.


Drop testing lab, Or ford Ness.

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Lab 3, The Oven, with hare warren, Or ford Ness.


Pagoda of Lab 3 viewed from Lab 4, Or ford Ness.

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Ellis Island is a small island beside the Statue of Liberty in Upper New York Bay. In the late 1900s America needed immigrants for its farms and production lines. Poverty and hunger in Italy and Ireland and the pogroms in Russia saw wave after wave of immigrants arrive in the ‘promised land’ through New York. With up to ten thousand new arrivals each day, ships were forced to queue for days in the bay. So Ellis Island was developed as a terminal for rich passengers and an immigration processing point and hospital for poor immigrants. It was extended from a scrap of rock to several acres by extensive land fill from the excavation of the New York subway. The building programme was developed following laws paradoxically brutal and benevolent. If you had 50 dollars or travelled in a cabin your immigration was processed on the boat and you went straight to the train. Everyone else was subjected to an interview and a medical. Names were often anglicised or changed altogether. Immigrants were processed by a doctor in 90 seconds, during which time 30 assessments were made – a white chalk mark meant a longer examination was needed. Over 300 babies were born in the hospital, psychiatric patients were treated and autopsies carried out there led to scientific discoveries. The more ill a patient was the further down the

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long corridors of wards he or she was posted. Those with terminal or long term illnesses like TB were treated with a view of the Statue of Liberty. The staircase at the end of the processing hall split three ways: the hospital, the dormitories, or the terminal building to New York. The buildings fell into disuse, but were revived during the Second World War for a prisoner of war camp. At the end of the war a wing of these cells was locked off, and when I visited it still was – few had been there since. On the walls and door frames ‘Heil Hitler’, ‘Viva Mussolini’, ‘Palermo’ have been scrawled on now flaking paint. As the hospital had done for its terminal patients, the POW camp offered its prisoners a unique view of the southern tip of Manhattan, known as the ‘billion dollar view’. Today the stabilisation of the hospital wing is under way, and the main hall is an immigration museum, a drop off point on the boat trip to the Statue of Liberty.

El l i s Is lan d

Dispensar y, hospital wing, Ellis Island.

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Mor tuar y, hospital wing, Ellis Island.


Autopsy theatre, hospital wing, Ellis Island.


Patient records, SAT-SIMO and SPI-TUR , hospital wing, Ellis Island.


Corridor, dormitor y wing, Ellis Island.


Family bathroom, dormitor y wing, Ellis Island.


Communal washroom, dormitor y wing, Ellis Island.


Prisoner of war cell, dormitor y wing, Ellis Island.

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Prisoner of war cell, dormitor y wing, Ellis Island.


Corridor, hospital wing, Ellis Island.


Liber ty view, hospital wing, Ellis Island.


The Quakers in Pennsylvania, progressive in their thinking about the reform and rehabilitation of prison inmates, wanted to establish a new penal code for North America and in 1787 established the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons. In 1829 they built an extraordinary walled city on the outskirts of Philadelphia, within which lies Eastern State Penitentiary. It is laid out in a panopticon plan, each vast interminably long corridor setting off from the single guard post, the eye in the middle.

Each cell had a tiny private exercise yard which prisoners could use for an hour each day, and where they could tend a small garden or keep a pet, a practice which was continued until the prison finally closed in 1971. The prison also included extensive workshops for trades and everything it needed to be as self-contained as a city. It even had a theatre and a synagogue. One governor had his inmates paint his office with classical frescoes.

Prisoners spent their sentences in solitary confinement, without seeing either guards, visitors or other inmates. The aim was to protect inmates’ identities to give them the opportunity of a new start when they left prison, and to encourage self-reflection which, in theory, was to lead to lasting repentance and reform. The inmates were not allowed reading material or to speak, whistle, sing or communicate. Failure to comply was punished by withdrawing food. Some inmates overcame this by wrapping notes around small stones and throwing them into the neighbouring yard. Drawing increasing criticism, the practice of absolute solitary confinement was abandoned in the 1870s.

The building went 4,500% over budget and then needed extending as the prison population grew. At times there were up to 5 people to a one-man cell. Further wings were added, filling in between the spaces of the panopticon ‘spokes’. A trust has taken over the building. Their work endeavours to retain the spirit of the place and is largely self-funded by a hugely popular Halloween trail.

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E aste r n State Pe ni te n tiar y

End of panopticon corridor, Philadelphia.


Cell, Philadelphia.

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Cell, Philadelphia.


In Cuba wastelands are so utterly different to anywhere else. Many buildings are derelict and uninhabitable. They no longer keep the rain, sun or vegetation out, they are unstable, unserviced and pretty much unusable. And yet they are in animate and active use. Usually when photographing derelict buildings there is no one around. In Havana someone would invariably pull up a chair unsolicited and seat themselves in front of the camera. These buildings are falling apart but are not going to waste. Even a derelict theatre with no roof provides a home on its balcony, an art deco cinema serves as a car park and an ancient and historically important convent with no water or electricity accommodates a vibrant community, up to a family per cell, with more in the cloisters and on the roof. For some years I had been exploring the ‘presence of absence’, but Cuba contradicts this ‘absence’ so markedly with its ‘presence’ and offers an entirely different set of ideas of what wastelands are about.

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At the time of these photos Cuba was opening its economy to foreign investors. Eusebio Leal, the Historiador de la Ciudad de La Habana and Professor Orestes del Castillo, his city master planner, (among others) have been piloting a scheme in Old Havana for a block by block approach to development. It is a considered and patient approach looking to accrue a transformation, experimenting with various approaches. If a site in a block has an injection of foreign investment this acts as the catalyst for rehabilitating the entire block. The priority is to find a way to accommodate those who currently live there and want to stay. Such an approach is seemingly outside the realms of an open market economy, and time will tell if it can be rolled out on a larger scale and retain its attention to detail and in particular the continuity of culture. If it does it will become one of those rare templates for rehabilitating a wasteland which succeeds without ripping out the soul of its subject.

Ha bana Vieja

Apar tment block, Cuba.

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Santeria Apothecar y, apar tment light well, Cuba.


Cinema, car park, Cuba.

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Theatre, dwelling, Cuba.

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Workshop, Cuba.

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Entrance hall, Cuba.


Convento Santa Teresa de Jesus. This early colonial church and convent forms the heart of this city block in old Havana. Once this closed walled community housed one nun per cell, now it is a dense microcosm of a city within the larger city. Sometimes there is an extended family to one cell. The cloisters are cut to a slither as each cell extends out to make a low kitchen and an extra room above. Fresh water is collected in buckets from the roof – something which appears organised in a more orderly fashion than the ad-hoc wires and pipes snaking through the compound. The courtyard, roof and other rooms serve for yet more dwellings. The variety, contrast and strength of spirit amongst this close-knit community is extraordinary. The ancient gates in the enormous walls that once served to lock the nuns in and the world out, seem to have found favour with a community as a means for self containment.


There is considerable interest in ‘restoring’ this convent, which probably means rebuilding it to look as it once did, so that it can serve as a hotel. These people need a better place to live, sanitation wouldn’t go amiss, this is their opportunity. I don’t envy the challenges faced in trying to relocate them and build a place that could come close to sustaining the strength of community that they have achieved here.

S an ta Teresa

Cloisters and cour tyard, Karate lesson, Cuba.

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Cour tyard, Cuba.


Cloisters, Cuba.


Cell, Cuba.

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Cell, Cuba.


Out from the centre of Havana an axis runs to the coast lined with former Creole palaces. It followed the route of an aquaduct. In 1861 a covered walkway was built to join these buildings, to create a single colonnaded street running seven miles. The palaces and fine houses are largely derelict. The former grand porcelain-tiled entrances and reception halls have been taken over by businesses, often doubling as living rooms. One formerly grand reception room off the colonnade is lined with fish tanks; the family does a lively trade in tiny minnows sold in plastic bags for under one US cent each. At the back is the young family’s living room space, part of which has no roof. The exquisite tiled floor has disintegrated into rubble. The courtyard has the remnants of rooms off it, all stacked to the ceiling with green glowing fish-breeding tanks. A few houses up is the home of a Santeria priest. His family’s living room is also a clinic, the TV doubling up as a shrine. On another site a palace has collapsed entirely leaving a vast deep waste ground in front of which a billboard has been erected sporting a lurid red Che Guevara proclaiming: ‘Revolution is: Sacrifice, Altruism, Solidarity, Heroism.’

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Cal za da del C er r o

Palacio, Cuba.

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Santeria priest’s house, Cuba.

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Santeria priest’s family living room and clinic, Cuba.


Aquarium shop and living room, Cuba.

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This edition published in the United Kingdom in 2010 by Dewi Lewis Publishing 8 Broomfield Road, Heaton Moor Stockport SK4 4ND, England ISBN: 978-1-904587-83-5 All rights reserved Š 2010 for the photographs and texts: Dan Dubowitz and Civic Works Ltd First published in a limited edition by Civic Works Ltd in 2008 Book Design: Simon Stern and Dan Dubowitz Layout: Simon Stern Colour: Pierluigi Zamboni at EBS Print: EBS, Verona, Italy Print manager: Alessandra Agostini Editorial: Tim Abrahams, Jenny Dubowitz, Ben Hall, Penny Lewis, Robert Slinger, Dan Wrightson.

Collaborators: Tim Abrahams , Ian Banks, Norma Barbacci, Harry Bolick, Leslie Booth, Leslie Boyd, Audrey Bradshaw, Irina Brune, Stefan Brzozowski, Andy Burrell, Robert Camlin, Kelvin Campbell, Mark Canning, Orestes del Castillo, Gabriella Caterina, Sylvia Caveney, Jonathan Cohen Litant, Liz Davidson, John Deffenbaugh, Jenny Dubowitz , Vic and Lil Dubowitz, Patrick Duerden, Pickle Ellison, Ralf Feldmeier, Serafino Di Felice, Lyn Fenton, Andy Firman, Helen France, Karen De Francis, Pauline Gallacher, Ray Gastil, Len Grant, Elaine Griffiths, Murray Grigor, Richard Haley, Ben Hall, David Hogg, Tracey Hummer, Barbara Irwin, Claire Karsenty, Per Kartvedt, Roger Lang, Maria Laurent, Jean Laurie, Eusebio Leal, Penny Lewis, Alex Linklater, Bill Lounds, Tom Macartney, Stuart MacDonald, Victor Marin, Eleanor McAllister, Judith R McAlpin, Davy McCready, Stefania de Medici, Nicola Moorhouse, Diana Naden, Stephen O’Malley, David Paton, Sherida Paulsen, Nick Putnam, David Ralston, Hunter Reid, John Robinson, Maggie Rose, Bruce Rosen, Graeme Russell, Zoe Ryan, Frank Emile Sanchis III, Ilma Scantlebury, Angela MH Schuster, Fred Schwartz, Leni Schwendinger, Noel Sharkey, Paul Shirley Smith, Robert Slinger, Simon Stern, Martin Stockley, Ros Stoddard, Fraser Stuart, Alan Ward, Mary Wardle, Richard Weltman, Lebbeus Woods, Dan Wrightson. A warm thank you to you all. Jenny, Zach, Eva and Reuben... this book of “rubbish buildings” is dedicated to you.


Dan Dubowitz, photographic project published by Dewi Lewis Publishing