1

Press release appeared after the death of Camillo Sitte. Hooker, George E, Camillo Sitte, City Builder, en:  Chicago Record-Herald, Chicago 1903, page. 6. Cited by Collins, George R., Collins, Christiane C., Camillo Sitte y el nacimiento del urbanismo moderno, [1965] (Spanish version: Barcelona, Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 1980).

2

In 1783 the first flight in hot-air balloon was taken, in 1839 the first daguerreotype image (here considering it as the starting point of photography) and in 1890 the first non directed flight in an airplane.

3

The first aerial photograph was taken by Gaspar Félix Tournachon, elevating himself above the town Petit-Becetre (France) with his camera in a hot-air balloon. However, the first conserved aerial photograph happened two years later, taken over Boston by James Wallace Black in 1860.

4

We could cite the example of Icarus and Daedalus from Greek mythology. See Maura, Francisco (October 3, 2006) The Myth of Icarus and Daedalus.

5

National Geographic Institute and the National Center of Geographical Information.

The sky above…

In 1904, in the January 15th edition of the journal Chicago Record-Herald, a press release appeared that explained the methodology behind the meticulous field work that Camillo Sitte had followed and that even 30 years later still served him to be able to write “City Planning According to Artistic Principles.” According to the press release, Sitte followed a precise method to study cities in situ which, upon arrival to a new town, he asked in the main library for the highest tower and for the best city map. “Continuing, after having cut the map into smaller and more manageable squares in case it were windy, he would direct himself towards the town tower with panoramic views and spend a few hours there analyzing the city map.”1

Humans have always sought to see the world from up above. When nature didn’t allow it through the formation of natural overlooks, slender constructions, such as lookout towers and bell towers, allowed men to elevate themselves over the city2. Years later, the technological advances of the 18th and 19th century would pave way to make the first ever aerial photograph possible in the year 18583.

Later, the development of photogrammetry and aviation made the first aerial flights destined for orthophotographing possible in the early 20th century.

 

Boston. James Wallace Black (1860). First conserved aerial photograph.

 

It was, without doubt, a great scientific advancement. Besides the fascination that is brought about through the contemplation of a privileged view point, orthophotography has been a very useful tool in many professions, those of which architecture is included. Upon seeing the precision of current orthophotos, it’s impossible not to think about the times when having a complete reproduction in plan view was something relegated to the drawings of old maps. That’s why it’s worth checking out the project  Historic Cities, from the University of Jerusalem, which has compiled online maps of ancient cities.

Sevilla, to the left of the shot, Braun and Hogenberg (1588) of Civitates Orbis Terrarum IV. To the right, Sevilla under the “American Flight” of 1956 (sources: Historic Cities and Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Ordenación del Territorio de Andalucía).Art has not been without a place in the human dream of rising up above all territories4, having been gifted memorable zenith maps from films as well as from photography. It’s worth pointing out numerous scenes from “Wings of Desire” (“Der Himmel über Berlin,” Wim Wenders, 1987) where the two protagonists, angels, observe a metropolis divided by a wall of shame from above. The angels observe, both physically and conceptually, the city from a “celestial” vision.                         

Fotograma de El Cielo Sobre Berlín (Win Wenders, 1987)Today, however, seeing any remote corner of the world from above is possible without even having to leave home. It’s only been 13 years since Google publicly shared their first version of the free program Google Earth, and of the equivalent online cartographic service Google Maps. Both tools have made taking a quick look at practically any place on Earth possible and readily available to any citizen with an internet connection. This bring the physical world closer to us digitally. On a state level, the work of exposing the Historical Photographic Library of the IGN and the CNIG5 should also be pointed out, which allows us to “fly” not only in space, but also in time. It is yet another advancement stemming from globalization that allows us to look down, as Icarus, with the same fascination that we feel when we fly in an airplane and we stick our nose to the window to contemplate the roofs, the outlines, the cities… the whole world constructed right beneath our feet.


Text translated by Kaitlyn P. Delaney

Notas de página
1

Press release appeared after the death of Camillo Sitte. Hooker, George E, Camillo Sitte, City Builder, en:  Chicago Record-Herald, Chicago 1903, page. 6. Cited by Collins, George R., Collins, Christiane C., Camillo Sitte y el nacimiento del urbanismo moderno, [1965] (Spanish version: Barcelona, Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 1980).

2

In 1783 the first flight in hot-air balloon was taken, in 1839 the first daguerreotype image (here considering it as the starting point of photography) and in 1890 the first non directed flight in an airplane.

3

The first aerial photograph was taken by Gaspar Félix Tournachon, elevating himself above the town Petit-Becetre (France) with his camera in a hot-air balloon. However, the first conserved aerial photograph happened two years later, taken over Boston by James Wallace Black in 1860.

4

We could cite the example of Icarus and Daedalus from Greek mythology. See Maura, Francisco (October 3, 2006) The Myth of Icarus and Daedalus.

5

National Geographic Institute and the National Center of Geographical Information.

Autor:
arquitecta (ETSAG), y compagina la actividad profesional con la divulgación, la investigación y la docencia. Es máster en Teoría y Práctica del Proyecto Arquitectónico (ETSAB) y en la actualidad realiza el doctorado en el grupo de investigación Habitar (UPC). Corresponsal de La Ciudad Viva, desde noviembre de 2013 forma parte de Re-cooperar, colectivo de jóvenes arquitectos de Barcelona, con el que ha participado en varios proyectos y ha sido docente de diversos talleres en la ETSA La Salle (Barcelona) y ESARQ UIC (Barcelona).

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