The Architecture of Transit is a PhD project using large format digital photography to produce topographical photographs to research instances of beauty and sublimity in the landscapes of motorway architecture between the Alps and Naples.
Mainly ignored within architectural discourse, motorways are megastructures in the landscape. Although for hundreds of miles this architecture lays upon the landscape without incident, the geographical area between the Alps and Naples contains a variety of complex topographies and urban conditions, sites rich in moments where the motorway architecture transcends function to become poetic.
This area also corresponds to the routes taken by the 17th and 18th century tourists undertaking the Grand Tour in search of a real life experience of the Sublime and Arcadian landscapes as depicted by painters such as Claude, Turner and de Loutherbourg; most frequently ending their travels in Naples, which was for them the end of the civilized world.
These same landscapes that we now speed across on motorways, elevated at high level on concrete pilotti or through the successive tunnels punctuating the Genovese topography, took days to traverse for the grand tourists and during the Romantic period confronting the sublimity of untamed nature whilst crossing the Alps became a highlight to be experienced rather than a perilous hardship to be endured.
These photographs then relate to an aesthetic history in 17th century art and literature within which the experience of travel is a recurrent form of representation expressed through categorical terminology such as ‘sublime’ and ‘beautiful’.
These photographs reject the banal and desaturated aesthetic of contemporary landscape photography, in favour of practices more comparible to portraiture – these images emphasise individual character and reveal transcendence over actuality through representation rather than record.
Text.- Sue Barr