Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Through the Turnstile

Photographer Jason Orton wrote a little piece for OpenDemocracy to go with these shots of his return to an infamous British nuclear bunker: the "Turnstile".

Apparently, it was built in the 1950s as a replica of Whitehall, a road in Westminster in London and the main artery running north from Parliament Square, the centre of national government, towards Trafalgar Square. The bunker was intended to be the government's very own emergency hideaway in the event of nuclear war.

Orton writes, “My photography often focuses on traces within a landscape that hint at something that has happened, or might happen in the future. […] I am concerned with the evidence and remains of human occupation within a landscape. "Turnstile" was never occupied, but wandering these labyrinthine tunnels and bunkers it is possible to imagine what life would have been like underground in the aftermath of a nuclear attack."

He also notes that the underground city has been declassified and put up for sale, as part of a wider initiative called the Corsham Development Project. “Several uses for the tunnels have already been considered. These include a massive data store for city firms, and – because of its almost perfect temperature – a huge wine cellar, possibly the largest in Europe.”

Well, needless to say, officials there could certainly use a bit more imagination. So why not keep it open to the public, either as an avant garde performance venue, an art installation graveyard or museum-like tomb, or, maybe just as some architectural acoustic freak show with orchesatral music belting out below the surface through a series of listening manholes punctured through the stone quarries of north Wiltshire above - the bunker turned in to a glorious Berlozian topomusical landscape instrument: a D-Flat Range, of sorts. How about a spooky real life game space, GWAR running around chasing kids armed with toy rocket launchers, or let it be the next site for the reality TV show Survivor: who will be the last to endure the subterranean challenges of a total sim apocalypse? At the very least, let it be some underground park space with a network of portals to the outdoors above with suprisingly romantic excursion tunnels, sound installations, an odd psuedo ecology, breezy biking hollows, a sublime underground graffiti city.
I don't know, those aren't the greatest ideas in the world but anything more poetic than a wine cellar.

[See these earlier posts: Touring the Greenbrier; Secret Cities of the A-Bomb; Area 71; Washington's New 'Survival City'; A Silo Full of Cash; Secret Soviet Submarine Base; Fortress Baghdad; The 'Long War' enters its capsule; Subterranean Urbanism; Tokyo Secret City; Bunker Archaeology; Smugglers' Paradise Uprooted; [Re] improvising sub_Base landscapes; Secret Synagogue; Mt. Seemore and the watchful gaze; from Leftover-Bunkers to Tourist-Traps...; A "Closed Atomic City": Open for Business]


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