The Design Observer Group

Posted 03.24.11

Alejandro Cartagena & Aaron Rothman

Lost Rivers

Earlier this year Places published a selection of images from photographer Alejandro Cartegena’s series Fragmented Cities, which looks at new suburban development in and around Monterrey, Mexico, where he now lives. In the course of that work, Cartegena also began to explore the region's natural environs, especially its many rivers.


What he found were landscapes in varying states of degradation. Two decades of rapid urbanization has caused extensive damage already: many rivers are drying out and filling up with trash and contaminants. Some have been dammed and rerouted, their dry beds used for everything from soccer fields to flea markets to parking lots. Ever since Hurricane Alex passed through in the summer of 2010 (after these photographs were taken) and washed out the riverbeds, such uses have been prohibited. But so far there has been little real focus on restoration of the rivers; as Cartagena puts it, most regulation to date aims largely "to limit the rivers' power to destroy the urban structures around them." Lost Rivers depicts places poised between loss and beauty, acknowledging the price of urbanization while seeking to reclaim a sense of connection with these natural spaces.

— Aaron Rothman