Disney resorts and futuristic marble megastructures: Arnau Rovira Vidal captures some of the world’s most absurd architecture

Seeing buildings as a reflection of the societies that build them, the Barcelona-based photographer explores architecture’s deeper meaning.

25 May 2022


In 2017, Sean Baker’s film The Florida Project became an instant cult classic. Not only for its pertinent depiction of inequality and mother-daughter relationships, but for its unusual choice of location. Taking place in a crumbling, candy-coloured motel on the outskirts of Disney World Florida, the near desolate, eerie landscape is in direct contention to the overly-sweet, jovial architecture. It’s this same uncanniness that gives Arnau Rovira Vidal’s photo series Fantasia Resorts such an allure.

Travelling to as many Disney resorts as he could, Arnau depicts the most unusual facades of buildings and architectural adornments. A large pair of cowboy boots wedged between two blocks of flats, a giant floppy disc leaning against a wall, a whole building built to replicate a Sony Walkman; the images look fresh out of a strange, alternate universe in which the only people allowed to graduate as architects are nine-year-old children. To really get across the scale of the architecture, Arnau purposefully included one or two people in his otherwise near desolate shots. “In that way”, the photographer explains, “you can compare the human size to the super huge size of the objects and forms included in the place.” One of the central aims of the series was also to highlight the contradiction and absurdity of such places, and the obscene amount of money spent to create them. “It was fascinating for me to physically see the idea that the more money you throw at something – including architecture – the more money you can expect the guests to spend,” Arnau adds.


Arnau Rovira: Fantasia Resorts (Copyright © Arnau Rovira, 2018)

It’s this idea of architecture representing much more than we may originally perceive it to, that fuels Arnau’s practice. While Arnau sees people as viewing architecture “in terms of function and beauty”, he more commonly views it as “a reflection of society”. “Sometimes architecture is intended to impose a way of life and a way of conduct,” he adds. Here, Arnau is referencing his project A Ghost City. Being sent to work in Turkmenistan, Arnau was taken aback by a number of overtly grand buildings. Arnau explains them to be “nonsense” constructions of marble and gold, built as a sign of wealth by the country’s dictator. Something about the white, geometric and glass panelled buildings, so nonsensical in their avant-garde structures has a certain futuristic feel to them, and they certainly wouldn't go amiss in a much flashier version of Star Wars.

Arnau studied direction of photography at the Cinema and Audiovisual School of Catalonia. But, after a few years of working on different types of media projects, he decided to study straight-up photography “to know how to make my own project and find my style”. For Arnau, “photography means having all the control over your pictures and process compared with video, where you normally need a crew and a huge list of material.” Another important element of Arnau’s practice is ensuring there is always an element of adventure, something he experienced in his most recent project, Los Cholets. A specific type of building in El Alto, Bolivia, the brightly coloured structures are few and far between, and so “those photos were quite an adventure because it’s not a touristy place, and you often have no clue where they’re going to be placed”. Later combining his three series together, Arnau recently published a photo book A Trilogy of Unusual Architectures which is available for purchase on his website.

GalleryArnau Rovira Vidal: Fantasia Resorts (Copyright © Arnau Rovira Vidal, 2018)

GalleryArnau Rovira Vidal: Los Cholets (Copyright © Arnau Rovira Vidal, 2019)

GalleryArnau Rovira Vidal: A Ghost City (Copyright © Arnau Rovira Vidal, 2017)

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Arnau Rovira Vidal: Fantasia Resorts (Copyright © Arnau Rovira Vidal, 2018)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature and History, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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