We don't wish the end times on anyone, no matter how enthusiastic the leader of the free world seems to be about expediting their arrival, and no matter how cool the various vehicles and fashions it inspires. But were they to happen — and look, if they're going to, 2020 looks like a great year for it — we'd wish a lot of things. Among them, we'd wish we'd been richer, not because we're rampant capitalists, but because if we were, we could have planned better, picked a couple of our favorite friends, and built the "Underground House Plan B."
The work of Ukrainian design and architecture firm, Sergey Makhno Architects, UHPB (as we're calling it) is a brutalist, concrete-heavy, subterranean bunker that wouldn't look out of place in a contemporary slice of dystopian TV or cinema. For now, as Dezeen reports, it's only a concept, and perhaps that's for the best.
Apocalyptic luxury — The company told Dezeen the ongoing global pandemic was the inspiration for UHPB, but the idea was to create something so appealing people would voluntarily inhabit it even without a catastrophic, once-in-a-generation global crisis.
"We realized that the world has many more unpleasant surprises for us," the company explains, adding that even the "most highly developed environmentally, socially and technically savvy countries" aren't ready for those surprises. Being prepared will likely fall to private citizens. And, let's be frank, the wealthy ones will be the best prepared.
The UHPB has a helipad for rapid arrivals or departures and a minimal above-ground footprint. It's large enough for multiple families and spacious enough to house a gym, grotto-like swimming pool, and other facilities that might help inhabitants stay sane and not murder one another — a genuine concern when law and order in the wider world have been whittled away to mere memories.
Cones, wheels, and spiraling stairs and residents — Envisioned as two intersecting concrete shapes — an inverted cone plugged into the side of a large wheel laid flat, the UHPB's minimalism is unsettling for a building that's meant to offer coziness and comfort. Concrete isn't the warmest or most humanist of mediums to begin with but limiting the soft furnishings, artworks and other objects most people associate with a "home" make the project feel far more like a work of science-fiction than something we'd actually want to count out the days of a legitimately civilization-unraveling lockdown in.
Not that it matters, really. We'd never be able to afford to build it before the second wave hits anyway. And we can't get to Ukraine considering the neighboring EU is — perfectly reasonably — blocking visitors from the U.S. But, frankly, we're not even sure we'd build this in a Ukrainian forest if we did have the resources. Clearly the most sensible thing to do would be to put it in New Zealand, a country that's effectively eradicated the coronavirus via a combination of a rapid lockdown and the sort of civic-mindedness that the U.S. should be embarrassed it can't even dream of, thanks to people who think wearing a mask constitutes an infringement of their civil liberties. But we digress.
Fake consolation — Aside from the entire building being, for now at least, nothing but an idea, rather than being consoling we find much of its contents dystopian in their own way. While the proposed grow room for salad ingredients is a welcome sliver of green between the monochromatic fixtures and bare walls, the reliance on artificial light combined with the ersatz vistas of the world left behind stir a specific sort of desperate sadness in us. The sort that's only worsened by monolithic passages and a shortage of flat surfaces upon which to hang things like our inevitable lockdown artworks, or those of our children who we're trying to raise without the savagery we know is likely gripping the world beyond the confines of our palatial refuse.
We like the idea of a sweeping spiral staircase and a home library as much as the next person who's read Cormac McCarthy's The Road and knows what an alternative apocalypse looks like, but it's hard to get excited about this sort of fantasy because all it does is drive home the harshness of the reality in which we find ourselves. Aesthetically, we love the UHPB, but practically we wouldn't wish it on anyone. In dark times we need softness, warmth, and light, not the stark, minimalist beauty of a boutique hotel where there's no bar, no strangers to flirt with, and no hope of a cab to the airport when we inevitably tire of it.