The Architecture of Transit is a show about transforming the apparently banal into the sublime. Photographer Sue Barr, who has spent her career lovingly cataloguing the structural dynamics and textural beauty of raw concrete around the world, has traversed the rocky regions between the Alps and Naples, capturing the most impressive elements of Italy’s post-war civil engineering program.
Admittedly, this might sound rather dry, but Barr injects a bit of romance through the revelation that these very landscapes were once the nexus of Western cultural obsession with antiquity. It was amongst the hills and gorges that the moneyed participants of the 17th and 18th century ‘Grand Tour’ would stroll, hoping to discover the source of the sublime landscape depicted in classical painting.
A very different sort of Arcadia exists today, offering the motorist the grandstand seats as they sweep through the foothills on vast concrete pillars, the roads arching out on great elevated sections and through long tunnels. On the ground, however, the landscape has changed forever, the new layer of concrete and structure bringing to mind another rich source of classical imagery, the carceri, or prisons, etched from the imagination of the 18th century artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Although the modern motorist may never soak up these references as they rush along the autostrada, Barr’s large-scale images offer a rare chance to drink it all in.