- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Metropolitan Books; First Edition edition (October 4, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805065180
- ISBN-13: 978-0805065183
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,255,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Naked Airport: A Cultural History of the World's Most Revolutionary Structure Hardcover – September 9, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
To today's air passenger—patiently removing his or her shoes for the third time that day, swallowing overpriced fast food or slumping on chairs of sadistically molded plastic—the world of travel depicted in Gordon's lively history will feel like a vanished Golden Age. In six chapters and an epilogue, Gordon, contributing editor for House and Garden and Dwell and author of Weekend Utopia, traces the evolution of the airport from the muddy fields of the 1910s to the "sterile concourses" of the '70s with an eclectic range of reference and an eye for detail. By the late '20s, high rollers could tour the capitals of Europe in two luxurious weeks, sunseekers could take flying boats from Miami to Havana in two hours and airports—from Buffalo to Berlin's Tempelhof—reflected widely varied strains of an optimistic and triumphant modernism. Much of this history is contained in the details of abandoned projects, and Gordon's unearthing of such grand schemes as "Toledo Tomorrow" add immeasurably to his narrative. Smoothly blending cultural and aesthetic history, Gordon's book is also helped by its 108 well chosen b&w illustrations and attractive design. Though the term "airport book" has other connotations, reading Gordon's book might just restore a little of air travel's vanished glamour... until the next checkpoint.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Let others savor Humphrey Bogart's steely gaze as he bids farewell to Ingrid Bergman at the end of Casablanca: as a cultural historian, Gordon has eyes only for the airport in which this famous farewell takes place. But the tarmac drama of Bogart and Bergman provides only one small tableau in this panoramic chronicle of the evolution of the airport--from the muddy pastures of the 1920s to the high-tech nerve centers of the twenty-first century. Architects receive their due in these pages--including the nearly invisible, glass-and-concrete "naked airport" design of Munich's Oberwiesenfeld--but Gordon also understands how often politics and economics have displaced the architect in shaping the modern airport. (Hitler successfully turned ugly ideology into the rigid monumentalism of Berlin's Tempelhof Airport.) And, in a sophisticated analysis that anticipates his 9/11 conclusion, Gordon recounts how the terrorist attacks and hijackings of the 1960s and 1970s turned airports into a fiercely contested battle zone. A cultural history linking the Wright Brothers of yesterday with the al-Qaeda cells of today will attract many appreciative readers. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Gordon is generous with drawings and photos, and he makes a good effort to draw his subject out of as many airports, in as many countries, as possible. And for my money, he identified the most resonant themes. These include the stubborn difficulty of saying exactly what an airport is (portal to adventure? transit hub? amusement park? a machine for moving people?), a question intimately linked both to changing technology and the cost of flying. After all, if your flimsy Trimotor has to take off into the wind, an airport should be a big grassy circle. If your plane is a limousine for movie stars and rich businessmen, the terminal should look the part: classic lines, intimate waiting rooms, and don't forget lap robes for the fashionable ladies who get chilly at fourteen thousand feet. Maybe it should be a massive seaside terminal, since much of your traffic in those bygone days would have consisted of long-range flying boats. Somehow it also should put your city's name (or your name, if it happens to be Fiorello LaGuardia) up in lights. What should an airport be?
The author certainly won't pretend that the question has been answered. Every modern air traveler's angst testifies to that. Today's airport is built upon aviation's most durable theme: speed, always more speed, but it somehow feels all wrong. Gordon points out that even the earliest air adventurers felt that malaise, how even when you set off in high spirits to visit faraway people and exotic places, often you ended up writing about what you saw around the airport ... and sometimes you didn't even get off the plane. Commercial flight ceased to be a thrill many, many years ago. After a few times aloft, even our flapper forebears found it boring. In that view, today's airports match today's airplanes rather well: They're all an exercise in getting it over with as fast as possible. But somehow we wish it were done more beautifully.
I have my quibbles with the book. The author didn't deal thoroughly enough with aircraft technology. I would have liked to know how airplane interiors changed along with airport architecture, because surely legroom, amenities, and customer service evolved in tandem with the terminal experience. One of his major themes was how the Jet Age divided what came before with what followed. Yes, but I don't think it's inevitable that fast, cheap jets would lead to a dehumanizing travel experience -- or ugly buildings. Nor do I share the author's regrets about deregulation and its lower fares, hub system, and routing flexibility. It's hard to argue that if people would only pay higher fares, and accept government control of where planes flew and how often, travelers would benefit. In that sense I don't think Gordon was willing to face the truth that when something is lost (good architecture, a gracious approach to travel) something also was gained (mobility even for the non-rich, a globe-trotting freedom for the many that history has never seen before). Airport-as-bus-station is not as handsome to look at, but on a blunt level it gets the job done. Form follows function.
This book was published in 2004, and it should have done a much better job of wrestling with 9/11. It's confined to a very unsatisfying "epilogue" when it should have been the climax. Terrorism, after all, is what destroyed the last vestiges of the airport as a public place, a place of pleasant anticipation, of welcome, of innocent adventure. Fear has transformed airport engineering beyond recognition -- and tomorrow's airports will look nothing like the marvels of the '60s or the train depots of the '30s, or even the airports of the late twentieth century. The demands of security will finish the process of making the airport a sealed, insular, lonely, transient place, devoid of greetings or farewells.