Conflict and Natural Disasters
Fission, Fusion & Architecture
How has controlled and uncontrolled nuclear technology, since Hiroshima impacted perspectives on architecture?
Anthony Stewart
Fission, Fusion & Architecture
Probably better to ask "Has the Cold War affected architectural design?"
Frank John Snelling
Fission, Fusion & Architecture

I suggest that nuclear processes would have been developed whether the Cold War happened or not. Mine is not an East/West issue, but rather a global sense of awareness in the nuclear age. In terms of architectural language, I am looking for any insight on how concepts of nuclear conflagrations, intentional or not may have affected our perceptions of security. There are no 'atom-proof' buildings; I intentional discount bomb shelters as being really community utilitarian. As designers, should planners retreat into massive structuralism - even knowing that these themselves offer no real protection? Or perhaps we persevere into even more esthetic vulnerability to affirm the human qualities which make destructive nuclear usage unthinkable? In short, whose power has post-Hiroshima architecture reflected - the atom or society?

Anthony Stewart
Fission, Fusion & Architecture
Anthony, I doubt whether aesthetic considerations would have any effect on someone pressing the nuclear button.

Further I would imagine only a few architects were affected by the mind-numbing threat of "the Four Minute Warning". As one who lived through the Cold War Era I never gave any thought to being obliterated in a nuclear holocaust, because if the button was pressed, four minutes does not give a lot of time for panic or hysteria.

People hoped for the best, ignored the threat and carried on because worrying was pointless. In fact, if anything it gave an enormous boost to an aesthetic freedom of expression known these days as "the hippie era" because there was no garantee of a future for anyone. :)

The unaesthetic expression of this era were nihilistic revolutionary fanatics who wanted to destroy everything before we wiped ourselves out with atom bombs.

Unfortunately, this anarchic nihilism spread like the Black Death plague from politics into philosophy and the arts including architecture, which is why today these fields are more interested in destruction that in creation.

Note: Atom bomb-proof structures exist but they are all deep underground and add nothing to architectural design.
Frank John Snelling
Fission, Fusion & Architecture
As architecture is a form of macro-communication, expressing both power and value of societies - I am less interested in the mindset of those who may implement nuclear options for political reasons, than in the popular mindset, social psychological influence stemming from the realtively new understanding of quantum physics which ha bee a direct extension of atomic research. But I appreciate your perspective on the 'four minute warning.'
Anthony Stewart
Fission, Fusion & Architecture
Anthony, I doubt if the majority of humanity ever thinks about "quantum physics". I saw an interesting series of programmes on this issue several years and my conclusion at that time was that various parts of "Quantum Physics" paralleled my own thoughts upon aesthetics.

Chaos Theory probably was a spin-off and when I was writing my trilogy in the early 1990s, I deliberated avoided reading any texts about Chaos Theory because even from the newspapers, I could see some of my thoughts on aesthetics were parallels of Chaos Theory. Later, I read the book by Gleig and was amused to see I was right. :)))
Frank John Snelling
Fission, Fusion & Architecture
Frank, I am not concerned whether the majority of masses are interested in quantum physics. Regardless of our level of awareness as a species - certainly the absolute realities of the nuclear age have profoundly influenced our use of resources and visions of the future. You are quite correct, that even in massive structures there is no defense against nuclear holocaust, nor can it be really argued that there is anything but transcient security offered by being buried alive in bomb shelters. What may help avert such a reality may exist in the human mind and cyberspace which allows for the consideration of macro-communication (such as through architecture)in achieving a better perception of societies, their interrealtionship with each other and with our planet. Perhaps my issue is really how and what community designers, architects can do to widen our limited social/political perceptions to include a healthier vision for our global community.
Anthony Stewart
Fission, Fusion & Architecture
Anthony, REUR: "How and what community designers, architects can do to widen our limited social / political perceptions to include a healthier vision for our global community."

For a healthier vision of and for the future; urban planners, architects and designers must stop trying to bury the human species under the twin ideologies of nihilism and negative criticism.

What Khmer Rouge Leader Pol Pot did in Cambodia was an extreme revolutionary form of the same nihilism and negative criticism which is corrupting humanity.

Until this ideological nonsense is recognised and accepted as nonsense, there will be no rational debate.

I do not know if you have read Malthus, but he wrote his books on "the checks and balances on Humanity" a generation before Darwin and I am sure Darwin read and was influenced by Malthus.

Malthus was the forerunner both for evolution and ecology. I mention him because humanity has a responsibility both to itself and to the planet.

The resources on this planet are finite and sooner or later we will run out of all of the fossil-fuels (gas, oil, peat and coal) and left with wind, wave and nuclear power. And nuclear power as it is today is a mind-numbing disaster.

Today, and for the past 200 years, we have increasingly used fossil-fuels. So that the huge cities, global transport and global commerce have been created and mainly run on fossil-fuels.

The skyscrapers and high-rise buildings which endlessly consume energy to both construct and maintain are only there because of fossil-fuels. When (and not if) in the future there are no more fossil-fuels then these buildings will become completely unsustainable slums.

You ask what urban planners, architects and designers can do? What they can do is to design for future "decentralised" populations that are neither urban nor rural but a complex synthesis of both.

The human species as a sentient species must create its own checks and balances so that humanity in the future will to be able to exist in harmony with the planet, which in practical terms means: existing in a sustainable balance within the available resources.

Science and technology can create a better future, but not the dream worlds as seen on TV and films. If Marx were alive today, he would quickly rephrase his saying "Religion is the opium of the people" and say "Global Mass Media is the new opium of the people."
Frank John Snelling
Fission, Fusion & Architecture

Perhaps what Frank is suggesting is a greater synthesis between the energy system(s) that both allow for the construction of buildings and their maintenance. To me this would suggest greater focus on using locally available resources, less industrial processes in preparing construction materials (say wood, versus plastics), greater emphasis on passive, permanent archiitectural design and construction in accordance to specific site ecologies.

I agree that current urban highrises will become largely unmanagable in the coming post-petroleum age. Regardless of the possible energy afforded by nuclear technology, I have yet to see an atom mixing sand and cement to make concrete.

To the bipolar balance of 'intent' and 'use' of public buildings, equal weight must now be given to the energy sources both in their construction and utilisation.

I welcome your comments for they have completely revealed an important premise in how structural 'intent' is modified through constructivist (political scientific) process, in absolute corellation to the physical material substances used in construction.

Anthony Stewart
Fission, Fusion & Architecture
Anthony, Yes, I do advocate "passive architectural design" (minimal working parts), because while the construction costs may be marginally higher, this is offset in the long-term by lower energy usage and lower maintenance costs.

Given that most of the people on this planet are NOT "affluent middle class", then architecture should cater to the needs of the working class majority.

Working people need architecture which they feel comfortable with as there are enough problems in daily life without having live in buildings designed to enforce the ego-ideology of someone.

Regarding "political science" there is a very old saying "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

From what I observe today, "political science" is seen as an absolute system of thought and as such never to be questioned. In fact, this attitude is the first step to and into corruption, because any system of thought is only as good as its' ability to understand and deal with reality within reality.

Todays' "political science" is an amoral ideology which rejects reality. Reality being the need for some form of morality and culture to balance life.
Frank John Snelling


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