Planning for the Unthinkable

by Mats Burström (with Alfredo González-Ruibal )

Frontispiece: Dining room. The blue colour on the wall is intended to imitate a blue sky. 

During the Cold War the fear for the unthinkable – a full-scale nuclear war – was a deeply felt reality. Accordingly, it was something the government and the authorities had to plan for. Sweden’s officially declared status as a neutral country made no exception in this regard; the geographical nearness to the Soviet Union was conceived as a very real military threat.

Today, the political situation has changed and it is difficult to fully understand the enormous efforts that were put into planning and preparing for handling the unthinkable just a couple of decades ago. A material reminder of this recent past is found in Sollentuna, c. 15 km north of central Stockholm. It is the location for ‘the Elephant’, a constructed rock shelter from which the civil defence of Stockholm was to be directed during wartime. It was built in 1972-1977 and could house 200 people. The equipment was the most modern of that time and the installation stayed in operational use until 1996. The future of ‘the Elephant’ is uncertain, but at present it offers the visitor a time travel to an extremely well-preserved material world of the 1970s.

The rock shelter installation is not open to the public, but in late March 2012 Ruin Memories team members Mats Burström and Alfredo González-Ruibal were permitted to make a visit into the interior of ‘the Elephant’. Below follows a pictorial essay of some of the things we met inside the rock. We like to express our warm thanks to Thomas Schilén at the City of Stockholm for opening the door to the primary rock and for his expert guiding.

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An illustrated documentation report on the installation written by Martina Berglund and Helena Lundgren in Swedish can be found http://www.stockholmslansmuseum.se/site_media/files/Elefanten_2011_49_Low.pdf.

One Response to “Planning for the Unthinkable”

  1. [...] ruination are different in different sorts of spaces, including churches, industrial spaces, and Cold War sites.  For instance, many ruin artists flock to amusement parks, which evoke past innocence and provide [...]

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