Architecture that Stole the Show - Dr. Strangelove

 “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, this is the War Room!”

Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove, is a black comedy about the world brought to the brink of extinction by a power mad and inept US President,  surrounded by paranoid generals and politicians. Ominous rumors had been circulating among western leaders that the Soviet Union had been working on propaganda and the ultimate doomsday weapon.

The set designer, Sir Ken Adam, was considered the most influential designers in movie making history. He trained as an architect after serving as a pilot in WWII and was the creative force behind many James Bond movies.

His objective for Dr. Strangelove was to create an underground chamber War Room in the Pentagon (a setting that really doesn't exist). The brutalist concrete room was designed with a very steep triangular ceiling in order to be more resistant to shockwaves from a nuclear bomb.

At the center of the room was a massive circular table surrounded by 26 seats for politicians and generals.  

Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

The round table was supposed to create the illusion of a poker game…as if the generals are playing with the world like a game of cards. The overhead lighting illuminated every actor from above to intensify the poker-faced tension.

Dr. Strangelove’s war room design has influenced real-life strategy rooms including the 2009 G20 summit in Pennsylvania (left) and Vladimir Putin’s three-decker military command center (right).

Many people thought this war room was real. President Ronald Reagan believed it was in the Pentagon! The set was built in England in Shepperton's Studio, which measured 12,000 sf with a 35 foot high ceiling.

Today this War Room still feels modern. The intensity of it should remind us of the reality that the planet is a single tweet away from total annihilation. The film is more relevant now than ever and should serve as a warning about today's political climate with tensions building up once again.

This is absolute madness. Sad

Helen Z.


The Art of Inspiration

This past spring I was fortunate enough to visit a place I have been waiting over 20 years to adventure in, Zion National Park.  I remember the first time I got a glimpse of its sheer scale in an issue of Outside Magazine. It looked like another planet, might as well have been Pandora (without the blue people of course). 

Over the past few years I have chosen to dedicate my travel to exploration of the incredible natural landscape in this country that has been preserved for our indulgence.

It is no surprise that upon arrival to Zion I took to the trails, reverted to the most natural form of exploration I know...on foot. Instantaneously, the inspiration and fluidity was shot into my legs as if the canyon was sending shockwaves with each step. Later I would come to find that a significant influence to preserve these canyon walls and many other national parks came from the same shockwaves I was experiencing.    

Creatives were profoundly moved by the beauty of the Zion Canyon. Artists visual representation and interpretations of these remarkable landscapes brought attention to the public, inspiring a generation to protect this natural beauty. The first paintings of Zion canyon did not come until the early twentieth century. It was the work of Frederick S Dellenbaugh, a veteran of John Wesleys Powell’s second expedition of the Colorado River, that first showcased his work in national publications raising awareness of the magnificence that was Zion. This awareness by Dellenbaugh and many other artists over the years, inspired by Zion Canyon, would in turn have great influence on our nation to preserve and protect these national treasures.

The power of art to move and inspire should not be underestimated. It moved generations to preserve our natural landscapes for what I hope, is indefinite. So if you’re feeling tired, monotonous, and jaded, you know where to go.

The mountains are calling and I must go.
— John Muir
Drew Miller, Associate AIA

Drew Miller, Associate AIA