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Exhibit Explores Simple Beauty of Airport Towers

Carolyn Russo looks at the different forms and functions of air traffic control towers in an exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum.

. A new exhibit by Smithsonian photographer Carolyn Russo takes viewers on a photographic jourey to airports around the world.

Above: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

The Ford Island Tower complex was constructed in 1941 and survived the attack on Pearl Harbor in the same year.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

. Barcelona-El Prat Airport, Spain

Barcelona's first airport, an airfield at El Remolar, opened in 1916. It relocated in 1918 to El-Prat. Barcelona El-Prat began commercial air service in 1927 and is now the second largest airport in Spain, after Madrid.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

. LaGuardia Airport, New York

The 1964 tower was designed by Wallace K. Harrison, famous for his 1939 World's Fair sculptures, Rockefeller Center, Lincoln Center, and the United Nations headquarters. After a new tower superseded the old one in 2010, the upper section of the original 46-meter (150 feet) tower was removed because it obstructed the new tower's view.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

. Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH/OMAA), United Arab Emirates

This is the only airport tower in the world that takes the form of a crescent. And the tower stands at 109 meters (358 feet) tall.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

. Abu Dhabi International Airport

A second angle shows the elegant curve of the Abu Dhabi tower.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

. Stockholm-Arlanda Airport (ARN/ESSA), Sweden

Wedding ceremonies, with a dizzying view, can be held in this tower.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA/KDCA)

In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt chose Gravelly Point on the Potomac River as the site of a new airport for the nation's capital. Washington National Airport opened in June 1941. In 1997 a new tower was built in a post-modernist style. Designed by CĂ©sar Pelli and Associates, it stands 61 meters (201 feet) tall. It originally had a white dome on top that housed ground-radar equipment. However, buildings in nearby Crystal City, Virginia, caused a radar echo, or "ghost," so the dome was moved to a ground location on the airfield. Congress renamed DCA "Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport" in 1998.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

. Oslo Airport (OSL/ENGM), Norway

Gardermoen is one of Norway's oldest airports. It served as a flight training center and an alternative to the Fornebu airport near Oslo. It was redeveloped and reopened in 1998 as Oslo's primary airport.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

. Los Angeles Airport (LAX)

The control tower at Los Angeles International Airport represents the complex system of air navigation, control, and communications that has been built up in the United States since World War II.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

. Edwards Air Force Base (EDW/KEDW), California

Rogers Dry Lake in California's Mojave Desert served as the Muroc Bombing and Gunnery Range in the 1930s. During World War II, the site became a training base. Later, new and top-secret aircraft were tested here. Edwards Air Force Base is home to many aviation "firsts" and countless records, and it served as a landing site for the space shuttle.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

. Edinburgh Airport (EDI/EGPH), Scotland

Edinburgh Airport did not open to commercial aviation until 1977. The new control tower took 15 months to complete and opened in 2005. It stands 57 meters (187 feet) high. The exterior's crisscrossed, double-helix pattern is not just for aesthetics. It also functions as a system of drainage channels. The 9,216 zinc tiles were hand-installed and have aged naturally in the outside environment, reducing the need for maintenance.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

. Dubai World Central-Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC/OMDW), United Arab Emirates

The "flower" design concept is a minimal square "stem" flanked by four curved "petals." The petals fan out at the tower base to provide stability, and the "bloom" at the top supports the double-level control cab. Luminous gold-tinted glazing adorns the tower.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

. Dubai International Airport (DXB/OMDB), United Arab Emirates

The 87-meter (285 feet) airport traffic control tower, with its buttressed center column and arched wings, resembles a futuristic avian sculpture. A multilevel control center crowns the tower, with Dubai Air Navigation Services operating from its perch.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

. Birmingham Airport (BHX/EGBB), United Kingdom

The Birmingham Airport (formerly Elmdon Airport) opened on July 8, 1939. It served as a flight school and test center during World War II. Today the airport serves over nine million people a year with just a single runway. The new control tower replaced Elmdon Airport's original one in 2012.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

. Fort Worth Alliance Airport (AFW/KAFW), Texas

The Fort Worth Alliance Airport is the world's first 100 percent industrial airport—used for civil and military cargo, commercial, corporate, and other noncommercial flights. Its runway can accommodate the world's largest cargo planes. Albert Halff Associates designed the control tower, which was built in 1992. The cone-shaped feature, reminiscent of a bird's beak, hides the tower's microwave signal relay equipment.

"Art of the Airport Tower" will be on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., through November 2016.

Carolyn Russo / Courtesy of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum