Belgian photographer Reginald Van de Velde has a passion for the unknown and the unseen. His images transport you to a dream world of ruins and long-forgotten architectural gems. He captures forgotten grandeur with his camera, showing the transience of life in the most beautiful way. ‘In a world that is too chaotic and fast-paced, I try to find solitude and peace.’
Balneario de la Puda is an impressive underground bathhouse in Montserrat, Spain, once named one of the best resorts in Europe. In 1870, hot springs with healing properties were discovered here and so the thermal baths were built on this site. It is a beautiful Art Nouveau-style building, abandoned since the 1950s. Van de Velde photographed the central corridor with private cabins on both sides here. ‘Architecturally, this building is stunning: the arches with holes allow natural ventilation of the hot water vapours from the baths themselves. Through openings in the roof, at river level, that vapour could then escape. The thermal springs are still active, leaving a hugely penetrating sulphur vapour throughout the corridors and rooms and resulting in faster decay.’ For a second impressive location, we travel to a castle in Poland. Pałac w Żyrowej is a gigantic Baroque palace dating from the years 1631-1644. Not only the building, but also the history behind it is huge. Van de Velde tells us more: ‘During World War II, the palace housed the military archives of the Third Reich. After the war, the property was nationalised. The palace was taken over by the health service. First it became a sanatorium for children, a little later a reception centre for children with tuberculosis. A new renovation served in the 1959-60s. However, financial problems resulted in the closure of the building and services in 1982. It was unmanaged and in a few years it was completely looted. With the last turn of the century, it became private property again and a massive and well-deserved restoration was started in 2017.’
Castello Partigiano, in turn, is located in Italy, specifically in Piedmont. This is an impressively dilapidated castle from the 1700s. Van de Velde's photographs include the beautiful spiral staircase, the drawing room and the partly underground kitchen with hand-painted tile floor. ‘Staying in Italy, we go to Florence, where Van de Velde managed to capture a very unique building, namely Casa Barca, a port building from the 1700s. The room in these photos is the “hall of pleasure”. The huge fresco, which occupies the entire room, is a collaboration of two grandmasters from Florence. They were also allowed to embellish the family chapel and the actual villa itself with their beautiful work. From Firenze, we travel to Lombardy, Italy, where Van de Velde captured the beautiful Cucina Al Fresco. This is a kitchen in an old majestic villa adorned by a wonderful fresco. Van de Velde photographed the underground kitchen here, with a beautiful original fresco several centuries old. It is unfortunately the only space that has remained intact. A second magnificent building located in Lombardy is an Art-Nouveau-style orangery or winter garden. The winter garden has a unique design and character and is very large.
'I am a wanderer looking for lost beauty, a chronicler of forgotten greatness’
We move to a very different kind of building, namely a sanatorium or convalescent home in Tskaltubo, Georgia. Sanatorium Metalurgi dates back to the USSR era and served as a place where hard-working citizens of the state could go on 'health holidays'. ‘These sanatoriums offered a combination of health and medical cures in addition to visiting thermal baths and spas. These institutions were once among the most innovative buildings of the time. They are beautiful buildings seen today as remarkable relics of the former USSR. It is clear that Reginald Van de Velde knows how to beautifully capture every dilapidated and abandoned building. The history and grandeur of yesteryear come to life in his photographs, which at the same time celebrate the beauty of transience and tranquillity.
Do you want to know more about Reginald Van de Velde? Read the full article in Imagicasa Autumn 2022.
Header image: Palac w Zyrowej, Poland
Image 1: Balneario de la Puda, Spain
Image 2: Senatorium, Georgia
Image 3: Castello Partigiano, Ialty
Image 4: Cucina Al Fresco, Italy
Image 5: Casa Barca, Italy
Image 6: Orangery, Italy
All photography by Reginald Van de Velde