Understanding the Global Cold War Legacy: Narrating through Landscape

  • Melanie Klein


The end of the Cold War brought the shrinking and dismantling of vast nuclear weapons complexes. As a result, some landscape architects will find themselves reclaiming a new, very specific type of Cold War landscape: those degraded by nuclear arms testing, production and waste storage. Nuclear landscapes pose multiple and complex challenges. Before designing nuclear reclamations, one must ask: what are the issues? If designers misunderstand the nuclear landscape 'problem', it will be 'solved' in the wrong way. My position is based on the assumption that society desires these landscapes to be reclaimed safely and in ways that allow them to educate the public. Landscape architects can find ways to reclaim nuclear landscapes safely while leaving narratives for generations to come. Perhaps it is too early to describe how nuclear reclamations will look. It is not too early to discuss what designs for nuclear reclamations should accomplish. This paper raises questions critical to the design of nuclear reclamations, both globally and locally. Near precedents - past reclamations that narrate other types of degraded landscapes - are discussed, and it is noted how we can learn from them when considering nuclear landscape reclamation. This paper does not articulate a specific design theory or solution to Cold War nuclear landscapes, but rather, it seeks to pose critical questions that designers should ask. These questions will be broad because we consider nuclear landscapes globally. The questions will require in-depth investigation of local issues as each unique nuclear landscape is considered.
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