Artist Documents Camouflaged Cell Towers

FRIDAY, MAY 28, 2021

Award-winning photographer Annette LeMay Burke has recently published a collection of photographed cell towers throughout the American west that have been designed to blend in with their surroundings, entitled Fauxliage.

Typically, cell towers house antennas and electronic equipment for mobile phones, however, for her book, Burke sought out instances of the infrastructure that looked less conspicuous in comparison to their traditional mast counterparts.

“Initially, I was simply amused by their appearances,” Burke told reporters. “Then I noticed that instead of providing camouflage, the disguises actually drew attention to their true identities. I began to investigate the variety of forms and realized how technology was modifying our environment.”

Showcasing 66 masts, Burke points out that most disguised towers were dependent on the area’s climate. For instance, in warmer regions she found towers mimicking cacti and palm trees complete with fake frons.

“The detailed workmanship in the disguises is impressive,” explained Burke. “The cactus spine spots are all individually airbrushed, and the designers have even created dark patches that mimic the bird nest burrows.”

In colder regions, some towers also took on their area’s natural surroundings, designed to appear as pine tree-like sculptures instead. According to the author, the first-ever disguised cell tower was erected in 1992 in Denver and was designed by Larson Camouflage (now Valmont Concealment Structures) to appear as a pine tree.

Although more aesthetically appealing, the towers and manufactured adornments have been reported to become an environmental problem and quite costly.

“Both the manufactured branches and the reinforcement to handle the extra weight of the branches add around $100,000 to the typical evergreen,” Burke explained. Meanwhile, the aged and weathered plastic needles that fall from the towers can have negative effects on the ecosystem as well, on further promoting plastic pollution throughout the nation.

Overall, Burke noted that these specific types of towers were particularly hard to spot from a distance and feels that after technology has evolved to 5G, the smaller towers and their designs will have a reduced impact on nature.

“I do think they will start disappearing, due to changing technology, camouflage costs, and our visual tolerance to cell towers in the built environment,” she said.

Although not all foliage-based, in her travels, Burke also found that some phone companies went the extra mile to hide their towers within the landscape apart from common foliage, referencing three towers that had been disguised as crosses outside of unadorned Baptist church.


Tagged categories: Color + Design; Color + Design; Design; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Technology; Tower; Transmission Towers

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