Touring Smithsonian Exhibition Provides New Views on Airport Form and Function. “Art of the Airport Tower” is on exhibit at Tellus Science Museum. The exhibition is composed of 50 photographs by Smithsonian photographer Carolyn Russo and explores the varied forms and functions of airport traffic control towers in the U.S. and around the world. The exhibit opened in June 2017 and will remain on display at Tellus Science Museum until September 17, 2017.
Tellus Science Museum will host Ms. Russo on Friday, July 14 for the exhibition opening reception. The famed photographer will be on-hand to sign copies of her book, available for purchase in the Tellus Store. At 7 PM she will present a lecture discussing her seven-year journey around the world to capture the 100 stunning photos featured in her book.
Russo traveled to 85 airports in 23 countries to capture images of these towers. The resulting photos interpret them as monumental abstractions, symbols of cultural expression and testimonies of technological change. What started out as a strictly functional structure, the airport tower has become a symbol of its airport, its community and even its country. Visitors to the Stockholm-Arlanda Airport in Sweden, for example, are greeted by two lookout points perched like birds at the top of the control tower to evoke protective ravens from Nordic mythology, while the crescent-shaped tower at the Abu Dhabi International Airport resembles the sail of a dhow boat to emphasize the area’s proud maritime heritage.
“Airport traffic control towers have a powerful presence—they watch over the vastness of the airport and sky, are a nonjudgmental cultural greeter, a choreographer or conductor of the aircraft dance, a mother bird caring for her flock and an omniscient, intelligent structure keeping humans safe,” said Russo. “I saw them as the unsung heroes of the airport landscape and tried to elevate them beyond their height and amazing architecture.”
Russo attempted to humanize the contemporary towers by focusing on their anthropomorphic properties, while others became abstractions. The photos of the historic, inactive airport towers were captured in their natural state, as witnesses to aviation history. They tell the story of changing technology, design and architecture, making the case for their continued care and preservation.
The exhibition is sponsored by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Air Traffic Control Association, Harris Corp., Rockwell Collins, Saab and Thales. Epson America Inc. and Manfrotto provided in-kind support.
“Art of the Airport Tower” premiered at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. from November 2015 through November 2016. The National Air and Space Museum, composed of the flagship building on the National Mall in Washington and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., is home to the world’s finest collection of flight artifacts. From aircraft and space vehicles to engines, art and models, the wide array of the museum’s holdings tells the story of the history and technology of air and space exploration. The museum is also a key resource for research into the history, science and technology of aviation and space flight. The exhibition is on tour through January 2020. For more information about the exhibition, visit airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/airport-towers.
For more information or to attend the opening reception with Carolyn Russo, please visit tellusmuseum.org
Tellus Science Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is a 120,000 square foot science museum located in Cartersville, just north of Atlanta. For more information about Tellus Science Museum call (770) 606-5700 or visit www.tellusmuseum.org or www.facebook.com/tellusmuseum.