Brutality and brutalism

Actually, the word ‘brutalism’ in architecture is derived from the French word ‘brut’ meaning ‘raw’ since it was Le Corbusier who popularised the use of raw concrete in his iconic buildings.  But it is a fitting word when applied to many structures whose steel and concrete components are flaunted rather than hidden beneath marble, glass or Portland stone facades.

There is a certain symmetry in the idea of a bunker, whose quintessence is brutalist and whose purpose is to defend against brutality.  And bunkers are in fashion.

California-based company Terra Vivos has started the year with a full-throttle promotion of its bunker community in South Dakota.  The website looks as though it is selling an interactive combat game and this is almost certainly a deliberate ploy.  Words like ‘Armageddon’ and ‘Domesday’ are used liberally to describe the future for which we should be preparing by purchasing one of these robust dwellings.[1]

In 2013, Vivos announced a project for a 50,000 person bunker called the Ark in Kansas but this floundered a year later for safety reasons or lack of customer interest, depending on whom you speak to.  The company has, since then, concentrated on other bunker developments and has an operational site in a converted 76 acre underground munitions store built by the Soviets in the former East Germany.

Its latest unveiling, perhaps timed to tap into apocalyptic fears stirred by Donald Trump’s imminent inauguration, is a collection of 575 bunkers in South Dakota.  Photographs show a rural site that resembles a large pig farm, with sturdy concrete and steel structures dotted around undulating pastureland.  Each would house ten people ‘comfortably’ [2] and could be equipped with basic utilities for as little as $12,000.  A 99 year lease would cost a mere $1,000 which, even with the additional deposit of $25,000, is about one eighth of the price of a parking space in central London.

A good investment then.  And one that should be easy to replicate in the UK with its wealth of wartime workrooms, including Royal Observer Corps posts and bunkers.  Subterranea Britannica [3] is a society of underground shelter enthusiasts that keeps an impressively researched register of such units and offers a very helpful interactive map on its website.  Anyone interested in acquiring a bunker could do worse than to start there.

[1]  Vivos Underground Survival Shelters For Sale | Community Underground
[2] These doomsday shelters for the 1% make up the largest private bunker community on earth
[3] Subterranea Britannica