International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015, London, UK.
Convenors: Richard Brook (Manchester School of Architecture) and Martin Dodge (University of Manchester)
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 of 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’. We seek papers drawing 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.
The following is non-exhaustive list of possible themes:
- spaces of production, testing, storage of novel military†weapons systems associated with cold war including aircraft and bombers, missiles and submarines, radar system and satellites
- sites associated with atomic weapons and the distinct design challenges of keeping these safe and secure
- civil nuclear power research and networks of production, with their links to militarism
- research and manufacturing facilities for advanced digital computing technologies, programming, and data centres
- academic research facilities associated with military funding and cold war doctrines
- civic spaces in cities with shelters and spaces of civilian refuge
- developments of national telecommunications and need for hardened facilities, underground bunkers and remote radio networks
- bunkers for the strategic communications, military C&C and continuation of government in the event of war
- architectural design, materials science and electronics deployed to counter atomic age threats
- aesthetics of cold war urbanism, forms of visual representation of atomic power and nuclear weapons, the cultural meanings attached to new militarised landscapes and computerisation of society
- development of transportation infrastructure, logistics and routing to take account of cold war
- overall shaping of cities, housing renewal and suburbanisation to try to achieve population decentralisation that would reduce the risk of annihilation of citizenry in a single blast