The Soviet occupation of numerous countries, has resulted in a certain type of architecture leaving its mark across Eastern Europe. For almost five years, I have traveled widely tracking down through word of mouth, these gigantic monuments to tourism in Moldova, Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, Cuba, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Belarus. The architecture is a specific type of “block hotels” built by the government for the workers of the Soviet Union, and meant for nation building purposes.
In the former Soviet Union, the individual family vacation was widely discouraged and logistically difficult, set against the Western idea of an affluent middle-class family driving to Disneyland, it is this stark contrast, which acts as the crux of the my fascination with these hotels. One of the most compelling aspects of the vacations offered to the “best workers” of the Soviet regime, was the element of control and monitoring which took place during the trips. If workers were given the privilege to travel, upon their return they pledged to the state to redouble their efforts in gratitude for the needed break. Thus, all tourism served the good of the state and the collective, as opposed to the individual, and instilled a sense of patriotism in the laborers.
I often spend several days sleeping in these hotels, not speaking to anyone, and leaving the room only to eat. The photographs act as a documentation of a deep isolation and experimentation, which is reached during the several days spent at the hotel. The photographs are deeply informed by the human relationships that took place in these spaces, but now only remain in the evidence left behind. The architecture holds a stifling sense of deadness, as if it were already a museum. The lingering floral wallpaper, ancient mattresses, and bedside tables act as a conduit into a displaced time.
Since beginning the project, I have noticed a rapid decline in these types of hotels, they are either renovated or torn down, as new European Union money begins to pore into Eastern Europe. In 2009, the project continued in Cambodia and Vietnam, and most recently the project has included old cinemas from India.