Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 22, 2022

© Image by Carolyn Russo, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

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Art of the airport tower

An exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum that reaches new heights

Smithsonian photographer Carolyn Russo will change the way you look at traffic control towers. Her exhibit, on now through November 2016 at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, consists of 50 photographs of beautifully designed airport towers around the world. The show’s companion book features 100 pics of 85 towers — some historic, others contemporary — in 23 countries worldwide. Russo interprets the towers as symbols of cultural expression and testimonies of technological change. For example, the exterior of Edinburgh's airport tower, opened in 2005, features a crisscrossed, double-helix pattern that’s not only impressive to look at, but also functions as drainage channels. The 9216 zinc tiles were installed by hand. The tower at the Edwards Air Force Base in California has two high-rise escape systems for air traffic controllers in the event of an emergency. Each consists of a harness shaped like an over-sized pantsuit and a descent device that lowers the evacuee to the ground. Abu Dhabi’s tower is in the form of a crescent. It represents the sail of a dhow boat and is a nod to the area's maritime heritage. Free.

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