Waiting for the End of the World


Where will you go when the trouble starts? For countless people the answer is the bomb shelter in the basement. In fact, people around the world have been building shelters to protect themselves from man-made catastrophes for centuries. Waiting for the End of the World is photographer Richard Ross’s journey into this quirky somewhat paranoid, and often hauntingly beautiful underground world. Ross has documented not only the bomb shelters of the United States, but also examples from Russia; England; China; Vietnam; and Switzerland, where every citizen is required by law to have a shelter.

With an interview by Sarah Vowell.

Published in 2004 by Princeton Architectural Press.

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“In St. Petersburg, the Trendy Griboyedov Club, a brightly painted subterranean night spot, occupies the site of a Cold War-era bomb shelter. Elsewhere, thousands of similar shelters sit empty and decaying or have been converted to mundane uses such as data storage, now that nuclear fear has been supplanted by more amorphous threats. Ross’s photographs of shelters around the world are colorful and melancholy, suffused with a creepy Egglestonian light. “Shelters are the architecture of failure,” he says. “The failure of moderation, politics, communication, diplomacy, and sustaining humanity.” Most amazing is the scale of such hidden places as Beijing’s Underground City, built to hold three hundred and fifty thousand people, or the bunker beneath the Greenbrier hotel, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, designed to serve as the emergency shelter for the entire U.S. Congress.”
– The New Yorker, July 5, 2004

“[a] jolly little volume. . . from the glory days of nuclear paranoia.”
– World of Interiors, December 2004

“…a survey of post-apocalyptic havens…serenely beautiful, if chilling. They combine stripped-down survivalist aesthetics…with a troglydytic domesticity.”
– Wired, July 2004

“Richard Ross turns his lens on such underground hideaways and finds an eerie sort of loveliness.”
– Time Out New York, June 17, 2004