As a public health precaution, both of our locations, along with all Smithsonian museums, are temporarily closed. See our message to visitors.
Art of the Airport Tower takes you on a photographic journey to airports in the United States and around the globe. Smithsonian photographer Carolyn Russo explores the varied forms and functions of air traffic control towers throughout aviation history and interprets them as monumental abstractions, symbols of cultural expression, and testimonies of technological change. These 50 images bring a heightened awareness to the simple beauty of the airport tower and a call for their preservation in the airport landscape.
Often the first impression travelers have when they reach a new destination is the tower, and each tower tells a unique and important story about its airport, community, and culture. Visitors to the Stockholm-Arlanda Airport in Sweden are greeted by two lookout points perched like birds at the top of the control tower to evoke protective ravens from Nordic mythology. 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. Historic towers, such as the Ford Island Tower that withstood the attack on Pearl Harbor, provide a glimpse into earlier aviation eras. Collectively these towers represent many countries and cultures. They play a pivotal role in the vast network of air traffic control technology that brings people of the world closer together.
Russo’s striking photographs and informative captions reveal the architectural, cultural, and technological significance of each of the featured towers. This one-of-a-kind view of airport towers will change the way you think about flight.
The Art of the Airport Tower has been generously sponsored by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA), Harris Corporation, Rockwell Collins, Saab, and Thales, with in-kind support from Epson America, Inc., and Manfrotto.
Art of the Airport Tower is now travelling to international locations. Learn more and see tour specifications.