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Cities from the Sky: An Aerial Portrait of America

Cities from the Sky: An Aerial Portrait of America

This video was recorded at Authors@MIT. Piloting a single-engine biplane high above Washington D.C. in 1920, the intrepid inventor and aviation pioneer Sherman Fairchild first tested his custom-built sky camera, effectively founding the aerial photography company that would bear his name. Roaming America's skies for the next 40 years, the photographers of the Fairchild Aerial Survey Company documented nearly every major city in the US. The photographs, both map-like shots from high above and low angle raking views, are valued both as works of art and as tools for urban historians. Thomas Campanella, lecturer in MIT's Urban Studies Program, has painstakingly reassembled over 125 of these extraordinary images to form a definitive portrait of the American landscape. In this lecture, Campanella shows how the new ways of seeing enabled by the airborne camera fundamentally changed our perceptions of the landscape and built environment, and made available a powerful new tool with which to survey, plan, manage and shape the city.


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