Designs on the Land Exploring America from the Air

Alex S. MacLean, Jean-Marc Besse, James Corner, Gilles A. Tiberghien

"Mesmerizing....Look long enough and the obsession of photographer-pilot MacLean begins to resemble genius."—Los Angeles Times

The tradition of aerial photography arose from a keen nineteenth-century desire to see "the world in motion." Starting with Nadar's photographic balloon trips, airborne experimentation with landscapes and cityscapes continued through great photographers from Steichen to Burkhardt.

With Alex MacLean, we enter a different world. For thirty years, this committed photographer has portrayed the history and evolution of the American land, from great desert spaces to agricultural patterns to city grids. A trained architect who is closely involved in landscape heritage protection issues, MacLean has set out to create a series of pictures that show and explain the universal history of town and countryside. What he has to say may be invigorating or alarming, but it always raises the issue of the landscape's future.

This new collection of exemplary photographs taken across the American landscape reflects MacLean's passionate interest in the effects of time, geological movements, shifting landscapes, redeployment, pollution, urban sprawl, and the overlapping of surfaces and activities. More than 400 color photographs reveal in a unique way the physical splendor of America: both the beauty of the ongoing inhabiting of the land and the potential for modern planning to create spectacular environments.


Alex S. MacLean


Alex MacLean‘s books include Designs on the Land: Exploring America from the Air; Look at the Land: Aerial Reflections on America and, with James Corner, Taking Measures Across the American Landscape.

Jean-Marc Besse


James Corner


Gilles A. Tiberghien