The secret landscape

I just finished Survival City, Tom Vanderbilt’s look at the architecture of the Cold War, abandoned and otherwise — from old missile silos to the interestate highway system. Chock full of small, fascinating details. For instance, I had no idea that that big, windowless, and rather ominous phone company building in lower Manhattan (a few blocks from an old studio of mine) was actually designed to withstand an atomic blast. And who knew that a few blocks from the Las Vegas strip, there is — or at least once was — an atomic-age underground home, spread “over 5,200 square feet and…surrounded by an Astroturf lawn, fake trees, and an ‘outdoor’ grill designed to send smoke and fumes up a fake tree trunk”? The quote is attributed to a 1996 Houston Chronicle article, so maybe the home is still there today. Does some reclusive Nevadan take shelter from the nonstop blare of the Las Vegas strip by literally going to ground? Is there still, somewhere beneath the fake New York and fake Paris and fake Egyptian pyramid, a fake suburban home complete with a fake outdoors, fake trees and, presumably fake sunlight? Or has the home been abandoned entirely, like the legendary “forgotten” subway stations of New York City?

…well, that didn’t take long — here’s the scoop.