Appreciating the Art and Architecture of the World’s Airport Towers

Appreciating the Art and Architecture of the World’s Airport Towers

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Appreciating the art and architecture of the world’s airport towers
Stockholm-Arlanda Airport / Photo: Carolyn Russo

Smithsonian photographer Carolyn Russo traveled the world to capturing these surprisingly elegant structures

Smithsonian photographer Carolyn Russo first found herself drawn to air traffic control towers in 2006 on a flight into LaGuardia when she first studied the architectural details and circular windows of that now inactive structure. Over a span of eight years, often traveling alone and carrying all of her gear, including her 33mm digital camera, she visited 23 countries. Negotiating her way through myriad bureaucratic processes to gain access to restricted areas, she took pictures of hundreds of these towering structures, some built by such renowned architects as Eero Saarinen, César Pelli and Gert Wingårdh.

She spoke with about her quest to photograph the towers and the exhibition on view at the National Air and Space Museum.

What prompted this idea?

I had been looking at a lot of the work of artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. He did this series of buildings that were out of focus, skyscrapers out of focus, everything as a distortion and refraction. I looked out my plane window at the now-inactive LaGuardia tower, the huge circular, creamy quality of the tower and that’s where the idea sparked.

What’s your favorite tower?

The Edinburgh tower is. It’s the one that I use on the cover. I had a wish list of those I knew I wanted to include: one was the Dubai tower; also, the one in Sydney, Australia. […]



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