John Frederick Anderson

Photographer

Grid Cities- Barcelona is a series of photographs that make a visual study of the work of Ildefons Cerdà and the city of Barcelona. Cerdà was the Catalan designer of the revolutionary 1859 plan for the expansion of Barcelona, known as the L’Eixample.

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Each image layers architectural cross-sections of the medieval Old City and the modernist L’Exiample as grids that blend together to form organic inter- textures, revealing evidence of life the citizens have etched onto the urban surfaces. The images concentrate on façades, the screen of urban life that shows its public surface to the outside, yet also conceals an inner world and contrasting visual vocabulary of private space. With the façade as the screen, the meeting point between private and public exhibition can be explored. Extrapolating the aerial framework of the grid, the visual narrative derives its structure, continuity and meaning from the interpretation of the grid on vertical surfaces. The result is a mosaic of fascinating richness, where combinations of textures form new layers of meanings. 

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Each of the final prints in the series have between two and five individual images layered as multiple exposures, made on location at the time on one sheet of 5x4 inch film. Each final image overlays distinct grid structures and details centuries or decades apart, collapsing time in a truly unique photographic vocabulary. The final images are saturated with the colours, details and patterns that float up to the urban surface in one of the Mediterranean’s greatest cities, which attempted one of Urbanism’s greatest experiments.

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Ildefons Cerdà was the first urban designer to prepare a comprehensive plan for an entire city, based on a fully elaborated theory. His idea was to build the new city on a grid system, with symmetrically wide roads, carefully planned city blocks of housing, and evenly distributed public facilities. Cerdà had surveyed and drawn the city’s first plans in 1855, and was influenced by the problems of El Raval, concerned with the cramped and unhealthy conditions of working class housing and the high death and crime rate that resulted from this. The subsequent building of the L’Eixample is still controversial, criticized as being a monotonous, inflexible and regimented urban environment, yet, because of the richness of the architecture it exhibits, the L’Eixample is one of the most unique urban areas in the world. 

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Grid Cities- Barcelona was first exhibited in Galería Kowasa, Barcelona, November 2009 to February 2010.