Photograph from Gerco de Ruijter’s ‘Grid Corrections’ series (courtesy the Ulrich Museum of Art, via BldgBlog)

As any traveler who’s gazed out the window of an airplane while flying over the United States knows, the grid reigns. Dating back to Thomas Jefferson and the Land Ordinance of 1785, which created a system of surveying undeveloped country for settling, this division of land endures, especially in the Midwest. Instagram accounts like the Jefferson Grid offer square-mile views of it from above, while groups like the the Sioux Nation still struggle to reclaim the land that was divided up among white settlers in the 19th century.

A curiosity of the grid system is that, if its roads stretch far enough, they eventually have to bend to accommodate the curvature of the Earth. Gerco de Ruijter captured numerous examples of these jogs for his 2015 series Grid Corrections. As in his Almost Nature series, shot at a Dutch conifer nursery, and Cropped, which looks at pivot irrigation in the Southwestern United States, de Ruijter’s aerial photographs highlight radical alterations to the world made by the built environment.

The Dutch photographer compiled his Grid Corrections images into a one-minute video, accompanied by music by Michel Banabila. Geoff Manaugh, who shared the video on BldgBlog, discussed the project in an article for Travel + Leisure:

You could drive out there your whole life, de Ruijter realized, and not realize that certain stop signs and intersections exist not because of eccentric real estate deals, but because they are mathematical devices used to help planners wrap a rectilinear planning scheme onto the surface of a spherical planet.

As de Ruijter explains on his site, the roads “must dogleg every twenty-four miles to counter the diminishing distances.” You can watch those waving roads flash by in the video below. The distortions are almost like glitches in the human attempt to harness the land. Even if fences can be lodged in its soil and trees stripped from its ground, the planet beneath still finds a way to interrupt this infrastructural control.

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print and online media since 2006. She moonlights...

One reply on “Aerial Views of Where America’s Grid Bends to the Curvature of the Earth”

  1. Interesting. Reminds me of “Taking measures across the American landscape,” by J. Corner and A.S. MacLean

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