The Strange Underground Cities of Oscar Newman

Monday August 05, 2019 Written by James

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 In the 1960s, with the Cold War heating up, most New Yorkers had their eyes turned to the sky. Architect and city planner Oscar Newman was looking in a different direction.

In a plan that can only be called ‘audacious’, Oscar devised a gigantic spherical nuclear shelter, built underground, below present-day New York. He published the dreamy, sci-fi sketches in Esquire.

The shelter would be roughly the same size as the city, and divided into two hemispheres: the top bit would be a miniature Manhattan (buildings, subterranean streets, pitch black falafel stands, and so on), and underneath that was a complex grid of power stations and electrical generators that kept the city humming merrily along.

Because Oscar’s mole kingdom lacked certain cartographic conventions, like oxygen, it’s been labelled ‘Creative Cartography’. Sort of the halfway point between a bomb shelter and a daydream.

Modern-day city planners haven’t exactly jumped at Oscar’s plan, either. Blogger John Ptak called it a “terrifically bad idea”, pointing out the volume of the underground cave would be a mind-boggling 1.2 cubic miles. But you know what, we kind of dig it.

You can read more about Oscar Newman at his website, Defensible Space.