After You Left, They Took It Apart is the title of a series of images taken by the New York based photographer Chris Mottalini. Showing a collection Paul Rudolph-designed homes just before they were to be demolished, the series took Mottalini almost seven years to complete and presents a poignant picture of mid-century modernism at the end of its life.
Recently published as a book, the series demonstrates an apathy for mid-century American architecture and a shameful disregard for preservation. Writer Allison Arieff claims that Paul Rudolph has been one of the hardest hit in terms of preservation, with many of his Brutalist-inflected homes either under threat or already demolished. In many ways, Mottalini’s photographs are the only preservation that these buildings have.
For me, they are a poignant tribute to mid-century modernism and a haunting reminder that nothing lasts forever. In addition, they also open up a rich debate regarding the importance of preservation and the relevance of people’s personal tastes over the importance of historic legacy (simply read the comments in Arieff’s article to see what I mean).