As We See It

Cell towers have been dressing up since the ‘90s—and it’s still hilarious

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Who are you fooling? Dressed-up cell towers never stop being funny.
Illustration: Corlene Byrd

“We can still see you!” a friend blurted as we drove past a cell tower pretending to be a pine tree. Its attempt at stealth seemed as hilarious and endearing as a dog hiding behind a skinny flagpole, and our lampoonery continued as we blew down the road, leaving the poorly disguised tower shamed in its fake magnificence.

You’d think that in the 20-plus years these towers have been dressed as nature, the amusement (and thoughtful commentary) would wear off, rather than further cement them as one of technology’s finer oddities. Web pages and threads are dedicated to the best and worst. Artists contemplate the towers’ role in the contemporary landscape. (South African photographer Dillon Marsh’s Invasive Species and Las Vegas artist Jennifer Kleven’s urban naturalism, for example). But for whatever reason, manufacturers haven’t gone beyond the “nature” outfits—save for fancying up the towers as working flagpoles and replica water towers and church steeples. There are some successful tree imitations, like Larson Camouflage’s Mono-Pine (which Larson credits with “launching the concealed tower industry” in 1992). But with aesthetics serving as the driving force for disguises, forcing them to blend in awkwardly seems counterintuitive.

Dress them up, deck them out, celebrate their individualism in a non-uniform site-specific way, but don’t ask them to be something they’re not. Even if it is funny.

Tags: Opinion
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