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Fallout Shelter

Designing for Civil Defense in the Cold War

2011
Author:

David Monteyne

Fallout Shelter

Tracing the partnership between architects and American civil defense officials during the Cold War

In 1961, reacting to U.S. government plans to survey, design, and build fallout shelters, the president of the American Institute of Architects told the organization that “all practicing architects should prepare themselves to render this vital service to the nation and to their clients.” David Monteyne traces the partnership that developed between architects and civil defense authorities during this time.

Fallout Shelter deals in depth with one of the most material, most local, and most peculiar manifestations of the Cold War in the U.S.—the bomb shelter. David Monteyne provides an excellent model for assessing the anonymous architectural agents, past and present, that affect human action.

Annabel Wharton, author of Building the Cold War: Hilton International Hotels and Modern Architecture

In 1961, reacting to U.S. government plans to survey, design, and build fallout shelters, the president of the American Institute of Architects, Philip Will, told the organization’s members that “all practicing architects should prepare themselves to render this vital service to the nation and to their clients.” In an era of nuclear weapons, he argued, architectural expertise could “preserve us from decimation.”

In Fallout Shelter, David Monteyne traces the partnership that developed between architects and civil defense authorities during the 1950s and 1960s. Officials in the federal government tasked with protecting American citizens and communities in the event of a nuclear attack relied on architects and urban planners to demonstrate the importance and efficacy of both purpose-built and ad hoc fallout shelters. For architects who participated in this federal effort, their involvement in the national security apparatus granted them expert status in the Cold War. Neither the civil defense bureaucracy nor the architectural profession was monolithic, however, and Monteyne shows that architecture for civil defense was a contested and often inconsistent project, reflecting specific assumptions about race, gender, class, and power.

Despite official rhetoric, civil defense planning in the United States was, ultimately, a failure due to a lack of federal funding, contradictions and ambiguities in fallout shelter design, and growing resistance to its political and cultural implications. Yet the partnership between architecture and civil defense, Monteyne argues, helped guide professional design practice and influenced the perception and use of urban and suburban spaces. One result was a much-maligned bunker architecture, which was not so much a particular style as a philosophy of building and urbanism that shifted focus from nuclear annihilation to urban unrest.

Fallout Shelter

David Monteyne is assistant professor in the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary, Canada.

Fallout Shelter

Fallout Shelter deals in depth with one of the most material, most local, and most peculiar manifestations of the Cold War in the U.S.—the bomb shelter. David Monteyne provides an excellent model for assessing the anonymous architectural agents, past and present, that affect human action.

Annabel Wharton, author of Building the Cold War: Hilton International Hotels and Modern Architecture

David Monteyne does a wonderful job of placing the fallout shelter and its design in the perspective of the Cold War.

ARLIS/NA Reviews

Fascinating look at this inglorious chapter in American history.

Metropolis Magazine

Eminently readable, and with an engaging narrative...the narrative style was pitch perfect.

The Urbanologist

This detailed investigation ranges from the propaganda to built examples and examines closely the role of the architect as the middle man between government and civil society implementing a plan that is further reaching than simply the provision of shelter. The book presents a very distinct characteristic of the last century and the period between 1950 and 1980.

UrbanTick

Deepens our understanding of the “paranoid U.S. urban environment” (p. 42) in the sixties and contributes to broader conversations about professional conduct, government surveillance, and social implications of technological change.

Technology and Culture

A wonderful demonstration of how historical inquiry can expose level upon level of social construction through the detailed examination of a contained topic. Monteyne has very capably used the debates and aesthetics of spatial design for nuclear war survival to tease out the conflicts and anxieties of Cold War America that have built the landscape in which we live today.

American Historical Review

In Fallout Shelter, David Monteyne skilfully weaves together issues of architecture, urbanism, and civil defence. Fallout Shelter confirms that the quest for governmental control resides not only in legislation but also in the manipulation of the ordinary spaces that surround us every day.

Journal of Design History

Provides valuable insight into the interpretation of fallout shelters and their respective communities by informing readers of factors like the spatial distribution of shelters, the procedures used in community civil defense planning, and the Cold War-era relationships among private citizens, local officials, and the federal government.

Buildings & Landscapes

Fallout Shelter

Introduction
1. Hypothetical Hiroshimas: City, Suburb, and Shelter in 1950s Civil Defense
2. Surveying the Cold War Landscape: The National Fallout Shelter Program
Fallout Protection
3. Sheltering Communities: City and Social Planning for Civil Defense
4. Design Intellectuals: Professional Architects and Civil Defense
5. Performing Architectural Expertise: Designs for Fallout Shelter
Fallout Shelter Design
6. Cold War Constructions: Fallout Shelter in New Buildings
7. Bunker Architecture for the Cold War: Case Study of Boston City Hall
Epilogue
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Fallout Shelter

UMP blog - Preparing for an apocalypse: Government officials, architects, and the history of the fallout shelter

Recent articles on CNN and MSN.com suggest that Americans suddenly are commissioning and building backyard and underground bunkers to protect themselves from the end of the world. Portents of apocalypse these days include the Japanese earthquake and tsunami as well as 2012 predictions of the Mayan calendar. Only a few years ago it was Hurricane Katrina, and before that al-Qaeda, and Y2K, and so on and so forth.