Photographer Mirna Pavlovic Captures the Decaying Interiors of Grand European Villas

Architectural photographer Mirna Pavlovic has an obsession with abandoned places. For her, their appeal lies in their ability to exist on a different temporal plane from the rest of reality – both impossibly ancient and frozen in the present.

“They are never truly dead, yet never really alive,” Pavlovic explains. “Precariously treading along the border between life and death, decay and growth, the seen and the unseen, the past and the present, abandoned places confusingly encompass both at the same time, thus leaving the ordinary passer-by overwhelmed with both attraction and revulsion.”

For her latest series, Dulcis Domus, Pavlovic trekked over fences and past “no trespassing” signs to capture the once-glorious villas, palaces and castles of Europe that have now been left to decay, slowly returning to the Earth that existed before them. Through photography, Pavlovic attempts to highlight social issues through an aestheticised approach, allowing viewers to “see with fresh eyes what lies beneath those spots that we pass by on the street.”

Continue reading to see a selection of photographs from the series – hover over the images to see where each villa is located.

Italy; built over several centuries, oldest part is from the 14th century, but the majority of the palace was built in 1870. Image © Mirna Pavlovic
Italy. Image © Mirna Pavlovic
Italy. Image © Mirna Pavlovic

"As public space becomes privatized and the restriction of movement in urban environments increases, there is an overwhelming encouragement to avert the gaze." Pavlovic explains. "The world is structured to guide us, with traffic lights, road crossings, paths and fences, designated areas for play, work, death. Crossing the border of imposed restrictions means to purposefully go against ingrained beliefs, to breach a loose social contract held together by a fear of punishment and a comfortable status quo."

southern Europe, 19th century. Image © Mirna Pavlovic
France. Image © Mirna Pavlovic
Portugal. Image © Mirna Pavlovic

"In the end, the acts of transgression and trespassing into abandoned spaces become equally as incongruous in nature as the spaces being explored. Wandering off the path, like the abandonments, becomes in itself an act that is both invisible and increasingly present. Both suppressed and flourishing. It becomes a desperate cry against the discouragement to see and experience, a cry for freedom in a world where everything is prescribed, regulated and expected."

Belgium, built: 1866. Image © Mirna Pavlovic
Italy; the history of this property can be traced back to the 15th century but it took its current form (and the frescos date from) the 18th century. Image © Mirna Pavlovic
southern Europe. 19th century. Image © Mirna Pavlovic

"The homeless, the drug addict, the metal thief, the graffiti vagabond – these become our sisters and brothers in a self-imposed exile. To find a new home, we claim the ones that were once called by that name, reappropriating not only the structure itself but their own personal histories as well. In an almost carnevalesque manner, they become sites of our own search for context, meaning and definition. These homes become grotesquely revitalized, but remain within their own reality. In turn, we become vehicles of disparity, embodying and assimilating the otherness and the radical alterity offered by abandonments."

Southern Europe. Image © Mirna Pavlovic
Italy. Image © Mirna Pavlovic
Italy. Image © Mirna Pavlovic

More of Pavlovic’s photographs can be viewed on her website, here, or check out her work on Facebook and Instagram.

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Cite: Patrick Lynch. "Photographer Mirna Pavlovic Captures the Decaying Interiors of Grand European Villas" 02 Sep 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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