Apocalyptic Architecture: Cold War Bunkers, Reuse and the Everyday Landscape  2010

The landscape of the United States was forever altered by the Cold War. The dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 decisively ended WWII and marked the beginning of a new world order that was under constant fear of nuclear destruction. In the United States, bunkers and designated fallout shelters were built almost everywhere, creating the impression that anywhere could be a target of nuclear attack at any time. These apocalyptic spaces were an architectural acknowledgment of the nation’s new vulnerability. As they became part of the everyday landscape,these strategic subterranean spaces remain as concrete responses to the political, social and existential anxieties of the atomic age.

I am examining this phenomena through cultural landscape theory, looking at the relationship between society and the changes to the built environment during the Cold War. Geography and architecture professor Paul Groth defines culture as “a changing set of social relations, rules and meanings woven through everyday life,” while “landscape denotes the interaction of people and place: a social group and its spaces...all human intervention with nature can be considered as a cultural landscape.”

In a visual and historical analysis of the everyday landscape, information about the appearance, production and control of space can reveal both present and historic information about society, in times of peace and war. By examining the geographical, political and social elements of nuclear bunkers, I will analyze how the American landscape has been changed through the Cold War, and how these spaces of fear can shift away from a paranoid past and be integrated through reuse into today’s landscape.

Hampshire College Division III Thesis

Funding from DART (design, art, research and technology) group. Edition of 25 with custom slip case and 5 color posters.


Quoted on ArchDaily: Architecture for the Apocalypse (Now), 2012.