The design of cell-phone trees

The ubiquitous presence of cell phone towers in urban and rural landscapes have led to protestation against their visual presence (the ugly mast/transmitter aesthetics) and their electromagnetic waves (which are invisible). A side-effect of people's "need" for uninterrupted connectivity, the design and building of phone towers is now influenced by various strategies. One of them consist in the use of camouflage techniques... and obviously the "natural" metaphor plays an important role here, as attested by these examples encountered in Lipari, Sicily last week.

Fake trees such as these palm transmitter species are great candidate but there are also other concealment possibilities such as fake chimneys, cross ("already a transmission tower of sorts", clock tower, water towers, etc.

As pointed out by Rick Miller and Ted Kane in their chapter on mobile phones in The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles edited by Kazys Varnelis:

"the result is the camouflaged cell phone tower, the by-product of the only position available to communities who oppose cell phone towers, that is to demand their invisibility. Hiding its presence from public view, the ubiquitous cell phone tower camouflaged as a palm tree becomes an appropriate icon for the private infrastructural network of our day"

It would be intriguing to discover the whole design and construction process, especially how the the details have been taken care of. See for example the tower base and the antennas below... the design of the trunk, the branches and the leaves is of great quality, leading to some surreal piece of nature. Even more important here is the fact that the tree itself is (or must be) protected because it's an infrastructural installation that have inherent dangers for the genpop (electricity, etc.). The tree itself is just part of this ecosystem of components (electricity adapater, barriers, light system for night inspections, etc).

Why do I blog this? I see this sort of design as a curious sign of how certain norms lead to fascinating (absurd and perhaps depressing) solutions like transmitters concealed in fake trees:

  • Social and aesthetic norms about what should be visible or not and the type of tree/leaves that can be employed in an italian island.
  • Technological norms about how certain technologies should be protected, concealed or be accessible 24/7 (hence the presence of light).