ORIGINALLY FROM NEW Zealand, photographer Cody Ellingham traveled to Tokyo on a scholarship in 2012. He ended up staying for six years, during which he explored and documented the country’s staggeringly vivid and varied cityscapes. He was particularly drawn to danchi, the massive public housing projects built in the aftermath of WWII. Like many such postwar projects in both the Soviet bloc and Western Europe, danchi expanded a core utopian vision into vast, blocks-long megastructures capable of housing thousands – and as is also often the case with utopian architecture, many of the buildings are quite a bit worse for the wear.


Ellingham was able to gain full access to these vast, often half-abandoned-feeling buildings, shooting their dark, winding staircases and long corridors nearly exclusively at night. The resulting book, Danchi Dreams, presents its subject from an alternately macrocosmic and microcosmic perspective, where massive grids of windows and balconies, endless rows of doors that vanish into the distance, and huge, empty parking structures alternate with close-ups of mailboxes, doors, and empty rooms with peeling wallpaper. While the photographs never show people directly, the human element is implied through intimate details: modest belongings stacked neatly in hallways in one photo, or dozens of bicycles in orderly rows in another.

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The book’s first printing is sold out, but the Danchi Dreams website houses a sizable collection of images. Ellingham’s work can also be seen in the photography magazine DERIVE Wanderer (which he edits) and on Instagram.

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All photographs © Cody Ellingham; for more information, visit his website.