The Bow

The Bow by Cyrille Dubreuil


The fast acceleration of the online economy development and the e-commerce revolution has obviously changed the way people shop, but it also has somehow surreptitiously transformed discretely, but deeply, the landscape and architecture of our suburban areas. Companies design and build fulfillment centers to satisfy online orders as fast as possible, in the race against the clock for the expected next day or even same day delivery.

In 2008 in the Landscape Journal, Charles Waldheim and Alan Berger had already observed that this new industrial trend “had produced a new form of landscape, a landscape of logistic”. They named it the “Logistic Landscape” defined as “among of the more significant transformations of the built environment over the past decade”. I witnessed firsthand how these logistic buildings have mushroomed and quietly transformed vast suburban areas. They move closer to the core of our cities, and their imposing architecture rapidly alters our environment. Through my lens I watch, as our landscape takes new and stranger forms, more alien shapes. I did not intend to focus on those forms at first, but somehow a pattern appeared when I saw all these images on my screen. In my eyes they emerge like huge cargo ships, exposing valiantly their bow to the horizon, ploughing through the waves. Their minimalistic bare walls possess a certain abstract purity and geometric photographic quality.

The quietness that these buildings project is a sharp contrast to the once crowded and noisy shopping-malls, another “giant architecture”, which, in its time, had transformed our landscape. These former temples of frenzied consumption have been swept away by the waves of newer modern vessels firmly rooted in our lands. As time continues to pass to meet the demands of our click to order lifestyle, what else will change in our architecture?


Abstract by Conor O’Shea

In this era of online avatars, Amazon, and Alibaba it is easy to overlook the material consequences of our virtual behaviors. Acts such as online shopping coalesce to produce distinct geographies across the planet at multiple physical and temporal scales. In our global economy, all of the material goods we consume rely on a planetary web of highways, shipping lanes, and railroads that funnel trucks, ships, and trains carrying shipping containers filled with goods from sites of manufacturing to market.

While the shipping container is among the most visible symbols of global capitalism today, its architectural corollary — the industrial warehouse—is less so, blending into the peripheries of major cities, or occupying difficult-to-define territories far from traditional coastal port cities. Rising levels of e-commerce, fragmented global supply chains, and crowding along developed coasts has given rise to inland landscapes of logistics around the world.

As nodes in a thick interwoven network of industrial highways and double-stack rail corridors, these industrial buildings are neither the origin nor terminus of a product; they are unadorned, and engineered for efficiency. While physically opaque and removed from the public sphere, they both conceal and inadvertently express their function. Bays for truck trailer or railcar access hint to passersby the comings and goings of otherwise proprietary waybills.

Granted rare access to many such sites as a professional industrial real estate photographer, the work of Cyrille Dubreuill reframes these overlooked sites for popular audiences. Ignored entirely by many, and characterized as homogenous by others, his sensitive framing of industrial warehouses in Europe and the United States offer glimpses into the subtle nuances of these ubiquitous landscapes.

More surveys: