‘La Crisis Del Ladrillo’ or ‘The Crisis of the Bricks’ is Roisin O’Connell’s current and on going investigation into the Spanish housing crisis. Combining the two areas of documentary and architectural photography, Roisin has been able to raise awareness of the current economical issues of Spain. Using her family connections and concentrating on the province of Madrid, Roisin has taken regular visits to the ‘ciudad fantasmas’ (ghost towns) that neighbor the city centre. Producing a series of images that show the scale of vast uninhabited landscape, new housing development’s and unfinished building sites. Focusing on two town’s: Seseña and Ciudad Valdeluz, which were once intended to be a positive symbol of Spain’s economic growth, but now remain a depressing reminder of Spain’s tragic economic downfall.
In 2008 we saw Spain beginning to accumulate a vast amount of debt; by 2013 the growth of this debt lead to the Spanish economic crisis, where we saw the building market crash and youth unemployment rates rise to 56.1%. This debt was the product of long-term loans and the joining of the Eurozone in 1999. Spain experienced a boom in the economy from 1999 until 2007, where immense amounts money was wasted on new infrastructure and airports; where in some cases not a single plane has taken off. Sesena and Ciudad Valdeluz are two of the largest evidential disasters that have been thoroughly explored and documented throughout this series. Extensive and ambitious building projects that have become ghost town’s, where very few people can afford to live. It is made clear that this series is not just to raise awareness of this economic disaster, but an investigation into the reasons behind it. Roisin has explored the political, historical and cultural impacts on this event and representations of each of these elements can be seen throughout the series.
Ciudad Valdeluz is one of the biggest ghost towns on the outskirts, 37 miles northeast of Madrid. Valdeluz was supposed to be a stop on the AVE (Spain’s high speed rail) in Guadelajara. The AVE is one of the many things the government spent so much money on, adding to the current debt. At the AVE station in Guadalajara only 60 passengers a day use the trains at this station built out in the farmland. This is due to the service being too expensive and too far out of town, inconvenient. This city was planned for 30,000 people but when the property bubble burst, funds ran out to even finish the project (as seen in the image above). Only 1000 took up residence in the city, leaving 29,000 houses either unfinished or empty. There is a supermarket, corner shop, pharmacy, restaurant, cafe and medical centre. However, these businesses are only open twice a week due to the lack of residents creating business for them. There is a 24 hour security patrol in place to guard the town’s residents and buildings. On estimations, the Spanish government built over 780,000 houses that have not been sold since 2005. The building in Valdeluz stopped in 2008 and there have been no plans in the current economic climate to restart the building. Due to the unfinished rail links to central Madrid this unfortunately means that the residents are currently stuck in a town with very little resources, in the middle of miles of farming land. This must leave quite a damaged morale to the Spanish community.
Sesena was once an extravagant building project, symbolic of one of Europe’s most thriving economy and now sits empty, a symbol of the collapse of the property market in Spain. Only 5,100 properties were completed after the 5 year build before funds collapsed and the building had to stop, only a fifth of this is actually occupied. The banks are now so desperate to offload the vast amount of houses, they are offering discounts of up to 50% off due to the sales falling 25%. The unfortunate people who have bought a property in Seseña during the boom, whether to live or as an investment now are surrounded by empty houses with for sale signs (as photographed) throughout the whole city. The residents of the town are living without the promised amenities, such as certain shops, sports centres and schools. Having to travel further afield or even into Madrid city centre to gain access to civilisation. Visiting Seseña was quite shocking seeing this city built in the middle of desert land, seeming as a crazy idea in the first place even before the crash of the market. The desolate surrounding area that Seseña was built in has been a key focus point of this series, with the majority of the images including desert land to really open the viewers eyes to the madness of such a ambitious project.