Arts & CultureRelics of the Future

Relics of the Future

If the history of the world is told by objects, Relics of the Future captures the moment just before the future started. The documentary, directed by Rob Lindsay, features work by award-winning photographer Toni Hafkenscheid. It profiles architectural thought leaders from around the world and uncovers the secrets behind iconic modern landmarks.

“In 1969, my parents gave me a book called Wonders of the World. The book showed a lot of futuristic buildings being built around the world after WWII. For me “past future” is a nostalgic way of looking at the future from a 1960’s child point of view, with the idea that the future promises space travel to the moon, flying cars and a sense of optimism. What I tried to do with this series of photographs is capture that same sensation I had as a child when I first saw these buildings in that book,” says Hafkenscheid.


After the 1940 German bombing of Rotterdam, urban planners decided that Rotterdam needed a fresh architectural start. Growing up in post-war Rotterdam, Hafkenscheid was filled with optimism, watching the future manifest itself through the city’s new built environment.

“During WWII, the whole inner city had been flattened. After the war, the city was rebuilt from scratch based on modernist principles. This meant that throughout my childhood, there was construction everywhere and it seemed that new buildings were being erected all the time. It was incredible to see this building boom and watch how the whole city was transformed into a new, modernist city,” says Hafkenscheid.


Nearly 50 years after receiving Wonders of the World, Hafkenscheid has made it his mission to recapture the sense of hope and optimism he felt as a kid in Rotterdam. The tilt-shift technique is a large part of the spirit of his photos, a popular style that creates dreamlike images and simulates miniature scenes. Although tilt-shift is readily available as a photo filter in many smartphone apps nowadays, Hafkenscheid has uses it in camera for more than 30 years. Traditionally, tilt-shift was used by architectural photographers to capture buildings as sharp and upright as possible. For this Relics of the Future series, Hafkenscheid experimented by using tilt-shift in different ways, capturing images with as little sharpness in the frame as possible.

The results are dreamlike images that evoke a nostalgia for the future as was imagined. Since premiering at the Montreal Film Festival on August 31st, 2017, Relics of the Future has been named “Best of the Fest” at Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam and was nominated for Best Art Documentary at the Orlando Film Festival. Relics of the Future will air on CBC’s Documentary Channel on December 4 at 7 p.m. EST.


Heidi is the president of Matte PR and publisher & editor at Glossi Mag. She’s also a mentor to designers at Toronto Fashion Incubator. One of her favourite films of all time is Paolo Cavera’s ‘Black Belly of the Tarantula’. She recommends not watching as a feminist, or you’ll be upset. The film is scored by musical hero Ennio Morricone.

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