Monday, June 22, 2009

Book Nook: Waiting for the End of the World, by Richard Ross

Images of beautifully designed earth sheltered homes as well as rather stunning fully underground architecture are not difficult to find. The photos in Waiting for the End of the World are the subject of a decidedly different bent. They draw quick attention to the near apocalyptic tone and genuine concerns about a nuclear winter which trigger a good deal of discussion on (and construction of) underground shelters.
Images by Richard Ross from Waiting for the End of the World

Published in 2004, the book is mainly a visual spread of photographer Richard Ross's documentation of shelters worldwide. Atmospheres of grim abandonment alternate with thoughtfully lit, inhabited spaces that look- well downright cozy. Ross's photos offer an intriguing spectrum of shelters and their varying uses (or non-uses) today.

Among the features are gorgeous, epic hallways of the Moscow subway system, whose stations doubled as shelters in WW II; a sterile, well maintained and very presentable Swiss shelter, open for the tourist experience; tunnels of Beijing's Underground that alternate, intriguingly, from barren and unoccupied to ornate and inhabited.

Also in the spectrum of shelters spread across the planet are a wildly colorful St. Petersburg nightclub, an Israeli tunnel complex that has served as shelter for both Muslims and Christians and a well maintained, spacious community shelter complex for a group of residents in Montana.

They're all here. They're all underground. And they all feature varying levels of human occupancy, from nil to highly trafficked.

The array and style of fall out shelters portrayed is staggering. The uniformity of subject as shelter makes for a fascinating visual study of the different uses and levels of preservation of these spaces worldwide. Even the person wholly disinterested in the very idea of bomb shelters will look twice and those already drawn to the idea may very well glean some design tips.

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