Matthew Coolidge

by Deborah Gans


Watch six separate slideshows of images collected from the archives of The Center for Land Use Interpretation below. All photos courtesy CLUI Photo Archive.


Air Land: The relationship between land use and the sky is the subject of this thematic program area. The land and sky are linked in many ways. Aerial photography and satellite observation are critical to an understanding of the earth’s landscape dynamics. And the mountaintop observatories that gaze out into space provide a clearer picture of planetary phenomena. Airports, tracking stations, and aviation beacons link the aloft to the land.


Isolate Zones: Some places are intentionally cut-off from the continuum of the landscape, becoming discrete, inward looking worlds in themselves. Radioactive sites, for example, have to be disconnected from their surroundings for obvious reasons, and must remain that way for millennia. Military training areas too can function as self-contained cities or stylized enemy nations. This thematic program area examines the sites, landforms, and architectures of such isolate zones.


PetroAmerica: We are in the age of oil. Petrochemical products coat the surfaces that surround us, stuff the products we buy, build our food, move ourselves and our goods, and run the American machine. We all know that, yet we know so little about it. Improving the understanding of the physical form of this landscape, and its relationship to us, is the subject of this ongoing program.


Preparedness: Preparedness is an expanding enterprise, and is one of the defining conditions of our times. First responders build spaces to practice for disasters, large and small; militaries train in mock environments and design contingencies; governments build redundancies and escape plans; and individuals become increasingly aware of what may or may not occur. As preparedness grows, society becomes both more and less secure simultaneously, as we know that what we anticipate, we in some way manifest.


Transportation: Conveyance drives and defines America. Assisted and augmented movement from place to place occurs on orders of magnitude, from handtrucks to bicycles to cars to trains to planes to spacecraft. The industries, structures and infrastructures that give rise to, and manifest from, these modes of travel is the subject of this thematic program area.


Underground: Human interaction with the land often extends beyond the surficial veneer, into the underground. Whether things are located underground for spatial or climatic reasons, for secrecy or security, or simply by chance, an examination of this realm can give a sense of what lurks in the fundament of the country, and provide an indirect “overview” of what exists on the surface.