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If Mad Max were a brilliant architect, here's what he'd build

By Liz Stinson, Wired
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Justin Plunkett's Con/Struct series blends the real with the fabricated. The South African designer and creative director has layered several images together and combined them with computer generated illustration to create a Mad Max style post-apocalyptic world. Justin Plunkett's Con/Struct series blends the real with the fabricated. The South African designer and creative director has layered several images together and combined them with computer generated illustration to create a Mad Max style post-apocalyptic world.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Justin Plunkett, a Cape Town designer, has created a Mad Max fantasy world
  • He layered multiple photographs, combining them with computer-generated illustration
  • The series is part study in South African architecture, part commentary on life in the country

(CNN) -- It's hard to know what's real and what's fake inside the worlds Justin Plunkett creates. That rusted merry-go-round-like structure in the above photo? That's a real-life playground in the Cape Town neighborhood of Lavender Hill. The monolithic roller coaster behind it? A product of Plunkett's 3-D animation skills.

Fascinating ways people try to leave their mark on the world

In his recent Con/struct series, Plunkett, a Cape Town designer and creative director, has created a Mad Max fantasy world, filled with tottering skyscrapers made of refuse from a bygone era. Each of his images is the result of multiple photographs layered together with computer-generated illustrations.

Plunkett had been amassing a collection of photographs taken in some of the most down-and-out neighborhoods of Cape Town. "I had been photographing places and environments for a while with no particular agenda or plan for them," he says. He'll take a tire from one, a metal container from another, the sky from a different photograph and then construct an illustrated architectural structure in the middle of it.

Pointed Commentary

The series is part study in South African architecture, part deep commentary on life in the country. In one image you see a Dutch-style home (illustrated), often considered to be a mark of wealth, set amongst gravel and a tattered, old sofa.

In another you see an illustrated monument-like structure constructed from corrugated iron in the middle of a rubble-strewn field. Plunkett has turned this corrugated iron, which is often used to build shacks, into a thing of grand beauty. Context is key to really appreciating Plunkett's work.

It's a mash of references that are real, but they become quite fictional in the end.
Justin Plunkett

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At its most basic, the series addresses the idea of empowerment, and what it means in to gain it and lose it in South Africa. As a creative director who often finds himself working with corporations that shill an empty, unattainable idea of success, Con/struct was a way to spark a conversation. "There's an enormous gap between the realities in impoverished areas and what success actually equates to," he says.

The ambiguous relationship to reality is what makes Plunkett's work so fascinating. You know deep down that what you're looking at isn't actually there, but the images do make you wonder: What if it were?

"It's a mash of references that are real, but they become quite fictional in the end," he says. "I'd like people to look at it and ask themselves some kind of question. Is it real or is it not? What does it mean if it's real or if it isn't? That's where it becomes really interesting."

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