Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cold War Urbanism


I co-organised, with Richard Brook, a double session of papers at the 16th International Conference of Historical Geographers in London at the start of this month. Our session ran on the Thursday 9th July and had six really interesting papers from a range of international speakers looking at themes around strategic plans, secure structures and technocratic politics in the Cold War. I also did an introductory talk and Richard was down to be the discussant at the end. List of speakers and their paper titles is given below.

Session abstract:
In this session we wish to explore how the threat of nuclear war in the 1950s and ‘60s affected planning at a range of geographic scales. National and international telecommunications networks were built during this time as a direct response to global political conditions. The rise of atomic power and computational technologies required new facilities that were often dispersed and situated variously for secrecy and locally available expertise/experience. The zoning of land and organisation of facilities and the planning towns is not conventionally viewed as informed by processes of the ‘warfare state’ (Edgerton, 2005), but we want to ask; What were the patterns of the built environment, economic structures and aesthetics / cultures of Cold War urbanism in Britain? As Boyd and Linehan (2013) state in the introduction to their recent book Ordnance: War +Architecture & Space, we need to be alert to ‘escalation in the intersections between the fabric of the landscape and the technologies of war and the extrusion and mutation of war from the battlefield into everyday life’. The papers draw on a range of different evidential bases, archival research, personal histories and lived experiences and theoretical ideas to understand the spatiality of technological development, primarily focused upon city scales and architectural resultants.

  1. Cold war urbanism: the challenge of survivable city infrastructures; Martin Dodge (University of Manchester, UK)
  2.  Promise and threat: The dawn of the atomic age and the architectural imaginary; Russell Rodrigo (University of New South Wales, Australia)
  3. The iconography of the nuclear war threat in Cold War Bologna; Eloisa Betti (University of Bologna, Italy)
  4. Airspace in the nuclear age; Jonathan Hogg (University of Liverpool, UK)

  1. The Warsaw Metro and the Warsaw Pact: from deep tunnels to cut and cover; Alex Lawrey (Independent Scholar / Town Planner)
  2. Forming an everyday Cold War network: The constitutive role of law, surveying and asset management in the birth, life and death of Royal Observer Corps; Luke Bennett and Sarah Cardwell (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
  3. The anticipatory space of the bunker, modernity’s dark mirror; Gary A. Boyd (Queen’s University Belfast, UK) and Denis Linehan (University College Cork, Ireland)

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