Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson

A new photobook from photographers Thom and Beth Atkinson captures the spaces left where London buildings once stood, having been destroyed during the Second World War

Six years in the making, Missing Buildings records the gaps and spaces in London’s architectural landscape formed as a result of the bombing campaigns the city endured during the Second World War.

From Bristol to Glasgow, the scars of where all kinds of structures once stood are still visible across the UK cities bombed during the Blitz, the succession of attacks on the country that occurred between 1940 and 1945.

From Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson
Dingley Place, Finsbury (above); Underhill Road, East Dulwich, shown top of post. From Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson
From Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson
Hessel Street, Whitechapel. From Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson

In London, which suffered the majority of the destruction (71 raids and over a million buildings destroyed or damaged), the ghostly outlines of countless buildings can still be seen on the walls of adjoining properties.

A regular run of suburban homes on an otherwise unremarkable street might reveal the odd house-shaped gap which, after 75 years, remains as a kind of vacant, shadow-like memorial to the war.

From Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson
Princess May Road, Shacklewell. From Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson
From Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson
Wapping High Street, Wapping. From Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson

Missing Buildings seeks to preserve “the physical and psychological landscapes of the Second World War in London,” say the photographers, who are brother and sister.

And while one aim is certainly to record these sites, the series is also concerned with the way these strange markings recall the city’s violent past – a history which largely exists in photographic images, film footage and stories.

In the modern city, these physical scars on the urban architecture often resurface as the old makes way for the new. The “richly suggestive architectural syntax of repair, reinforcement and renovation echoes across the images,” David Chandler writes in his afterword to the book. This, he says, “registers something of the cyclical nature of destruction and rebuilding that underpins the history of all cities; ruins being not only portals into the past but portents of the future.”

As with many of the sites featured in the Atkinson’s book, the various outlines – of roof shapes, fireplaces and chimneys – reveal that these subtle memorials have in fact been part of the fabric of the city for decades. As Chandler suggests, they stand as both a silent reminder and a solemn warning.

Missing Buildings includes 42 large-format photographs in an edition of 600, with an afterword by writer David Chandler. It is published on October 8 by Hwæt Books. Production of Missing Buildings was funded by pre-orders of a limited edition version of the book. See thomatkinson.com and bethatkinson.co.uk

Fellows Court, Shoreditch. From Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson
Fellows Court, Shoreditch. From Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson
From Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson
St. John Street, Clerkenwell. From Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson
From Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson
Florence Road, Stroud Green. From Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson

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