Gone But Not Forgotten
Judith Davidsen -- Interior Design, 3/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
"The instinct to survive has been one of man's greatest endowments," Interior Design founding editor-publisher Harry V. Anderson wrote of the atom bomb in 1960. He added that design could be a powerful survival tool. While the American Institute of Decorators agreed with him, so did the U.S. government, which presumed that confinement in a bare-bones fallout shelter could take an emotional toll. (Lockdown was supposed to last two weeks, determined to be the extent of the radioactive period following an atomic blast.) Because even having such an ominous thing on the premises might set people on edge, the solution was a regular-looking room that could function as a shelter if the bomb dropped.
Known as the "family room of tomorrow," a pilot shelter designed by a former AID president was installed in the lobby of Chicago's Merchandise Mart in 1960. Members from California, Florida, Missouri, New York, and Texas contributed additional plans, all geared to boosting morale in case of an attack—or enhancing aesthetics and functionality in the absence of one. The Mart model featured a flush toilet that converted easily to chemicals and vinyl floor tiles laid for hopscotch. One member's idea used two weeks' worth of bottled water as abstract sculpture.
At a similar exhibition in Washington, D.C., film projectors appeared in several fallout-shelter models. One designer even pointed out that the heavy-duty construction of a shelter made it the perfect place to play ear-splitting music without incurring fallout from the neighbors.