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Cities from the Sky: An Aerial Portrait of America Hardcover – October 1, 2001

4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dozens of oil derricks in 1930s Long Beach, Calif.; the boardwalk in 1952 Ocean City, N.J.; shot after shot of pre- and postwar Manhattan and environs in Cities from the Sky: An Aerial Portrait of America, Wired contributing writer and urbanist Thomas J. Campanella collects 125 lush duotone photos of spectacular midcentury cityscapes, taken by the Fairchild Aerial Survey Corporation. The foreword by University of Pennsylvania urbanism professor Witold Rybczynski (City Life) extols the photos' humanist virtues, comparing them to Lorenzo's painting of Siena.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Campanella showcases the work of Fairchild Aerial Surveys, the cornerstone of the industrial empire of Sherman Fairchild, who became interested in photography and flying as a youth. Splendidly mounted on 14.5-by-12.5-inch pages, the photos show a sampling of U.S. cities, circa 1921-50, and are disposed in three parts according to whether the city in view is in the East, the interior, or the West of the U.S. Virtually all taken on crystal-clear days at angles ranging from, say, 30 degrees to the perpendicular, they are wonderfully well detailed, so that the new 1936 cars on the Ford lot in Dearborn are unmistakably of the old square passenger-box and trapezoidal engine-compartment style. If New York comes off most impressively, the pictures remind us of such less-renowned urban glories as Philadelphia's fine skyscraper collection, Annapolis' baroque late-seventeenth-century city plan, and Cedar Rapids' Municipal Island. Present-day western metropolises, such as Albuquerque and Phoenix, surprise with how relatively small they were and how much room they had to grow. A book to pore over again and again. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568982992
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568982991
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1 x 15 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,217,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Robin on July 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The photos in this book are the kind you pore over, there is just so much to see. These 125 are just some of the thousands and thousands taken by the Fairchild Aerial Survey Company from the twenties to the sixties. They are mostly large (very well printed) images of American cities and fortunately the majority are oblique shots rather than taken looking straight down. With the oblique angle you can see the three-dimensional look of buildings and the way a city stretches into the distance. Many of the photos show part of a cities downtown area with the building detail and traffic clearly visible.

Author Campanella writes a short history of the Fairchild company and its founder Sherman Fairchild. An amazing man who ran a company that designed cameras, aircraft, navigational aids, engines, optical equipment and into the sixties he encouraged the development of the electronic age.

The book is a good opportunity to see why American cities look the way they do. Page ninety-five shows Tucumcari, New Mexico, in 1940, though not a big place yet the grid pattern of blocks has been established and roads built for future houses, yet the town is not at right-angles to Route 66 which passes through one side. Pages 112 and 113 show the same shots of downtown Los Angeles taken in 1940 and 1957, the latter now has the Harbor Freeway just over a block wide running through it..

As you would expect all the photos are very clear as they were used by local government and other concerns. Not many were taken of cities in the Pacific Northwest due to atmospheric conditions. Bright sunny days caused problems too, buildings created really dark shadows that obscured detail.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very good collection of photographs. My only gripe is that I wish that some pictures like the Chicago and Los Angeles ones were in better areas of interest but it is still a really good book if you want to see how American cities looked like before modernism dominated.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just wonderful.
Particularly interesting if you are familiar with lower Manhattan (although -- there are many photos of other cities, too).
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It's a risky business buying a book based on a few page-scans and a short description, but I'm glad I took a chance on this one. Well, mostly! The book is great -- well designed, well printed, detailed photographs, interesting topic, really nice coffee-table book -- but I can't say the same for my own copy. The first copy I received had a torn page. No major problem considering Amazon's customer-friendly returns policy. But the replacement copy was even worse -- pages stuck together (which I had to cut apart), poorly-fitting dust jacket, and poorly packaged, resulting in some cover abrasion, especially not desired on a book such as this. I hope you're luckier with your copy! 5-star book, 1-star ...
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