The development and deployment of the nuclear bomb in the U.S. during World War II was a huge turning point in history, but the groundwork laid by the Manhattan Project that produced the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the development of the towns that housed the bomb-building effort is a lesser-known aspect of that history.
A new exhibit from the National Building Museum aims to shed light on the development of three of these towns that served as inspiration for future architectural and planning trends.
The first Manhattan Project town to be developed was Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) designed the town, which sprung up in about six months and was primarily composed of prefabricated single-family houses.
At the time, prefab houses were relatively common (albeit most were known as "kit houses"), but large-scale developments made entirely of prefabs were unprecedented. In Oak Ridge and the other Manhattan Project towns, the streets followed a letter-based naming system and were arranged to follow the topography of their respective sites, with clusters of houses interjected with "green belts". The types of houses were also identified by letter or by defining features, a nomenclature still used by residents today.
There were also some dormitories on the campuses to accommodate various living situations and much of the trappings of regular towns. The idea was that despite the obviously suburban layout, everyone should be able to walk to school, church, go shopping, etc., a concept of walkability that many place a premium on now.
Unlike the Manhattan Project towns of Oak Ridge and Hanford, Washington, the town of Los Alamos in New Mexico was able to take advantage of the existing Alamos Ranch School campus on the site, adaptively reusing over a dozen buildings for community amenities and VIP housing. Design firm W.C. Kruger and Associates was largely responsible for the newer architecture in this town.
In some ways, these three towns were no more advanced than the rest of the country, especially as it pertained to segregation. Black workers were relegated to substandard "hutments" on the outskirts of town farthest from the work facilities, and were subject to heightened surveillance.
Establishment of the town at Hanford, which is as big as half of Rhode Island, also was made possible by the forcible displacement of indigenous tribes, including the Wanapum Tribe. The towns retain those segregated settling patterns to this day.
SOM continued to steer the development of Oak Ridge after the war concluded, even continuing to experiment with designs and cutting-edge technology (like the 3D-printed house they constructed there in 2015) and working to redesign the town center right now.
Through the process of developing the Manhattan Project towns, SOM became one of the first multidisciplinary architect-engineering firms, a much more common phenomenon now. Turner Construction Company is another Manhattan Project alumni.
The influence of the concepts and layouts of these planned communities is also seen in towns as familiar to us as Reston, Virginia and Columbia, Maryland, both of which are characterized by similar winding roads and patterns of clustered houses and green spaces.
The Secret Cities exhibit at the National Building Museum starts tomorrow.
This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/how-planning-for-war-inspired-the-future-of-planning/13925.
Most Popular... This Week • Last 30 Days • Ever
This Week's Best New Listings includes a Shaw condo with soaring ceilings, a Wesley H... read »
Dupont Circle’s Swann House, a former 15-bedroom bed and breakfast, will be listed ... read »
A recent build in Anacostia made history as the first code-compliant bamboo building ... read »
There are two new proposals to redevelop the center at 14th and U Streets NW that are... read »
The recently-filed amendment would help move redevelopment of a police and fire stati... read »
UrbanTurf has compiled virtual looks at large new developments around the DC region.... read »
Why condo fees are high in some buildings and low in others can be a difficult questi... read »
Post Brothers has plans in the works to convert the Universal buildings into a sprawl... read »
The two-building project will include approximately 825 residential units, 151 lodgin... read »
The M Street building was built in the early 1980s.... read »
With this weekend's DC houseboat tour a day away, UrbanTurf thought it only fitting t... read »
President Obama travels to Denver this morning to sign the stimulus bill that has bee... read »
In this week's installment of Ask An Agent, a reader wonders if there is a rule for h... read »
As The Wharf prepares to begin construction, DC's houseboat community heads to its ne... read »
In this week's installment of Ask An Agent, a reader asks a fairly common question th... read »
DC Real Estate Guides
Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market
We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!
Intro guides for first-time home buyers
Awesome and unusual real estate from across the DC Metro