OBSIDIUM

Adirondack Mountains, New York

International Competition:  First Award

 

 

 

 

 

PROGRAM:   Twelve obsolete and abandoned missile bases remain in the region surrounding Plattsburgh Air Force Base, at the edge of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains in New York State.  These bases were underground silos to house and launch the Atlas, the first of a series of American Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) capable of delivering a nuclear warhead at a distance of more than 6,000 miles.  Facing unprecedented conditions for radical change in political, economic and industrial structures, the Project Atlas International Competition/Forum invited entrants to project social, cultural and aesthetic visions of the future through the physical and/or conceptual transformation of the missile silos.

Titled Obsidium, the scheme presented here is offered as an observation on the nature of deterrence theory.  To deter means to prevent or discourage from acting by means of fear.  Accordingly, the fear associated with a nuclear first strike is the promise of reprisal in kind established by the steadfast development of new generation nuclear military technologies to guarantee mutually assured destruction.  Ironically, at present (1992), with improved relationships between the superpowers, increased cutting of military spending, our nation continues to innovate and improve these technologies.  Although this policy has kept the peace for decades, its moral grounding is problematic because deterrence requires a genuine willingness to use nuclear weapons in order to be effective.  Thus, human beings are transformed into mere means for the prevention of war as Michael Walzner has so eloquently pointed out in Just and Unjust Wars.

Unlike the strategy of the German officers during the Franco-Prussian war who forced civilians to ride on military trains to deter saboteurs, we are hostages who lead normal lives.  Nevertheless, for most of us, this constant threat of destruction is subtle and imperceptible because we are not constrained in any way.  There is no direct violation of our physical
rights.  We live in a state of obsidium - the existential condition of being held as a hostage.  The transformation of the Adirondack missile silos is intended to express this state of obsidium.  As an arcadian retreat for metropolitan dwellers, the proposed towers would be constructed directly over the missile silos.

Each tower, constructed of structural steel that is fireproofed and encased in aluminum, rests on the perimeter wall of its respective silo.  The floors of the living quarters are dislocated from the structural frame to center on the axis of the former Atlas rocket location within the silo.  Perimeter shear connections allow a twenty-four inch sway on the top floor in a 50 mph wind.  Each tower is capped with a mirror finish stainless steel canopy that is open in the center to allow light to the sun deck.

 

 

 

 

Updated December 1, 2015