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.