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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Paul Laszlo's Atomville


Paul Laszlo's bomb shelter design
When I was researching Paul Laszlo's biography, I was intrigued by his work designing a swanky bomb shelter for the United States Air Force, as well as his concept for an underground city called Atomville.

In October of 1954, Popular Mechanics contained an article entitled "At Home, 2004 A. D.", in which Paul Laszlo's concept of Atomville and the home of the future were described in detail.

The city would be laid out with all the city streets concentric circles and major highways like the spokes of a wheel. Most travel would be by air, with cars only used for visiting within the city. Families would own their own helicopters and "convertiplanes," which could be used for land and air travel, and every house would have a flyport.

Although the homes would be underground, they would be open at each end, allowing access to terraced lawns and gardens. Because of increased population, land would be at a premium, so Laszlo envisioned "three-level use of a lot:  living below the surface, landing on it and traveling above it."

His plans included a steel and concrete "mechanical core" roof, with tubes providing atomic energy for heating, cooling and power, as well as tubes for other utilities, and even pneumatic tubes to deliver goods that had been selected from televised displays in 3-D and color. The houses would be 1800 square feet and include spacious bathrooms with glass-enclosed areas open to the heat and light of the sun and with adjacent outdoor pools.

Although Laszlo refused to predict that communities like these would exist in 50 years, Popular Mechanics speculated that his ideas might, in fact, turn out to be conservative.

Paul Laszlo's design for the Atomville home
Aerial view of Atomville house with flyport
Interior view of Atomville home


14 comments:

  1. I love how the visionary have mostly failed to understand how slowly humans actually move. We could totally have all these great things now, but we'd still have people living in hundred year old buildings everywhere and doing so because they want to! It'll probably be a three or four hundred years before the majority of people live in anything like this. The magazines probably didn't mean for me as a child to look at all the "future" cars, houses, etc. and come to the conclusion that they mean that's what Everybody will drive or live in, but that's what I always assumed. Growing up to unrealized expectations sucks! I want my flying car!

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  2. Wow, really weird place, that "Atomville"! Talk of bomb shelters always reminds me of the film "Blast from the Past".

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  3. Quite an interesting article. I want my flying pick up truck (for hauling treasures). Now that could put a whole new spin on treasure hunting.

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  4. @Mr.M: Another thing I think the visionaries of the 50s failed to take into account was population growth. We may be moving toward a day when single-family dwellings are a thing of the past, but until they are, there will be those of us who want to live in houses built in the 50s and 60s. I think they also may have underestimated the timeless appeal of their designs. Of course, a flying car would be cool!

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  5. @Tanya: I'm old enough to remember Civil Defense "duck and cover" drills...like sitting under our desks would have done us any good in a nuclear attack. It's hard to believe we could have been that naive.

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  6. @Krazy4Mod: There ya go! A flying pickup...or maybe some of those pneumatic tubes that would make going to the grocery store unnecessary.

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  7. I love these concepts but I can't help but feel claustrophobic over it. Have you seen/read about the Jerry B. Henderson House in Las Vegas? It's so outrageous!

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  8. @stacey: Yes, and it seems a shame that new owners built a traditional home above it. The thing that blows my mind about the underground house is that it can simulate the sky...and has an astroturf yard.

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  9. My dad was Paul Laszlo and he was always thinking way ahead of things. He also thought of a television on a track installed in a ceiling which would follow you from room to room. Not a bad idea even today.
    Peter

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  10. Just learning about Mid Century Modern…my in laws recently passed away… and my husband and i decided to talk some beautiful pieces that they had…Dining room table..and 2 china cabinet and servers. I learned that they were Laszlo… and love his style!

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  11. @Peter: I don't know how I missed your comment, but I do appreciate your visiting my blog and sharing that information about your father! Considering the fact that many Americans have a big-screen TV in every room, your father's idea sounds very forward-thinking...and quite cost effective. Please come back and visit again. I'd love to learn more about your father and do a post about him from your perspective.

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    1. Dana,
      I'm back again and I saw your post.
      Please feel free to email me at Peter@PeterLaszlo.com

      I never tire when talking about my dad.

      Peter

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    2. I just sent you an email about doing a post about your dad from your perspective. I hope we can do it! :)

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  12. @Pattie: Lucky you!!! Paul Laszlo's work is so elegant and glamorous...and so sought-after. I'd love to see photos of your pieces.

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