North Korea Tests Nuclear Missiles

The Defense of The City With Focused Analysis on The nuclear Threat

Jake Copich and Victor Abreu


history video from Jake Copich on Vimeo.

Since early 2006, the U.S. government has been following the developments of the North Korean nuclear missile testing program. This has become a source of great fear of the American public as the news continued to pour out from the media over the next seven years, as news of more successful tests having been conducted by the communist state. It is now believed that North Korea has supplied up to eight nuclear missiles that are ready

North Korean Nuclear missiles could reach as far as Alaska, which could draw the entire U.S. into war (The Washington Post)
North Korean Nuclear missiles could reach as far as Alaska, which could draw the entire U.S. into war
(The Washington Post)

to be used at any given time. This should be a source of worry for not just the United States, but the entire world because every major city is at risk of being leveled by a single nuclear bomb. The question now becomes, how can civilization adapt to this fairly new weapon to save lives, and how can the architecture of a city help prevent massive tragedy like in the case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan in World War 2?

In April 2012, Kim Jong Un and the North Korean government successfully tested a rocket that reached orbit that could be potentially used as a launch pad for an intercontinental ballistic missile, which brings the threat of a nuclear strike to the front door of every home in every country around the world. This information paired with the results of another North Korean test: a nuclear explosion detonated underground in the northeast zone of the country (Mullen May 05, 2013). This demonstrates just how much of a risk the North Korean military is to the well being of humanity. The world has, unfortunately, seen the devastation of a nuclear strike when the United States attacked the civilian cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan in August of 1945. The picture shows how devastating the nuclear strikes were.

The Japanese city of Hiroshima was completely leveled by the nuclear detonation. (U.S. National Archives)
The Japanese city of Hiroshima was completely leveled by the nuclear detonation. (U.S. National Archives)

This picture is shown as a demonstration to destruction that could come upon any city that North Korea finds as a threat, which is most likely the United States in todays current political juncture.

The question of defense against a nuclear attack is of the utmost importance currently. In early demonstrations of bombings in cities, such as London in World War II, the defending political body utilized air defense systems such as fighter planes and ground to air machine guns. This however, would be massively ineffective against a modern nuclear attack. Planes and machine guns clearly can’t shoot down an orbital missile launch system, so a new solution must be found. In thinking of a solution, the answer must be found through a collaboration between nuclear scientists, engineers, and architects for an effective structure and aesthetically effective design. In terms of blast radius, there isn’t much that could be done at the impact site of the bomb, but as you progress outwards, the use of thicker masonry walls and fire retardant materials could be effective in preventing damage away from the detonation(Kim July 2013).

This however doesn’t seem to be a very effective solution to saving lives though, and perhaps the best solution is a radar safety net, where the architecture takes a back seat to the technology. Satellite and radar systems present a solution for the United States. The infrastructure provides a perimeter around the United States airspace similar to that of the medieval walls built around the cities and village. for the rest of the world that cannot protect themselves with radar systems, the question should become, how can we house survivors of a nuclear attack?

The issue of housing large amount of displaced people after disasters, both natural and man made, has caused incident for thousands of years. It’s very hard to bring safe shelter to countries around the world due to both cost effectiveness for the government, political boundaries, and geographic locations. We propose a system of converted shipping containers that can be stacked and placed together in any arrangement to fit the needs of the survivors. These containers are already built and ready to be converted, and thousands at a time can be shipped to anywhere in the world within a few days. Once on land, these containers could easily be moved easily by their relatively light weight. These shipping containers are built weather tight, and be sturdy enough to withstand natures trails. cities could spring up within weeks made entirely of these converted shipping containers, and could last as long as needed for the rebuild effort.

If we look back in history, we find that almost every major city, and almost all civilized societies in history have created different defense systems against the different weapons present on their respective eras. If we look back at ancient medieval cities, they had a fortified wall going around the city perimeter to defend them against attacks and invasions from other cities. All through history we have different examples on how the architecture in most cities and structures surrounding it were based on defense for the city (Colwell 1998).

The ancient city walls still stand as a physical barrier within the city (Ian Ashworth)
The ancient city walls still stand as a physical barrier within the city (Ian Ashworth)

For example, we have the city of York, in the north of England. A city founded by the Romans, taken over by different groups including the Vikings, and incorporated to the Kingdom of England since 954. Since the foundation of the city, in roman times, the city has been defended by walls. There are still some remains of these walls left today and they date from the 12th to the 14th century.


Ancient defensive walls still stand today, proving their effectiveness at the time.(CRAterre)
Ancient defensive walls still stand today, proving their effectiveness at the time.(CRAterre)

If we go to Spain, we can find examples like the city of Toledo. A city surrounded by a river on three sides, and two medieval walls on the fourth side. Its history also dates back to Roman times. This city used to be the capital of the Spanish empire, until mid-1500’s when the royal court moved to Madrid. We also have Pingyao, a small Chinese city known for its well-preserved ancient city walls. The majestic fortified wall has six major gates, and 72 watch towers. This wall encircles an old city that has barely changed over the past three-hundred years.   Another example is Jerusalem, the holy city for three religions:  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jerusalem is the modern capital of the State of Israel. The walled city of Israel, called the Old City, is divided in four quarters: The American, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Quarters. I has been surrounded by its defensive walls since ancient times (U.S. Department of the Interior September 16, 2013).

Even in America, you see examples of fortified defensive systems. Examples likes the forts in the different Spanish colonies, which begun in the 16th century. This forts have a history of over four-hundred years.

These are just some examples of fortified cities around the world. We can see how similar strategies were used in rather different times, zones, and cultures. The basic, and only reason: Defending their turf. Also looking at those cities today, we are amazed, and astonished by these wonderful architectural gifts, preserved through time, which tell different stories of the different cities.

The development of the different types of weapons through the years has resulted in various attempts to defend various cities that have valuable resources, or just conflicts with other cities.  Different weapons, and technologies through time gave advantages to whoever possessed it, and the necessity to create better defensive systems. Such warfare technology can be tracked back to the Greeks, inventing stone hurling catapults by around four-hundred BCE, to weapons as simple as a bow and arrow, or even the sixteenth century cannon. These cannons shoot out a cast-iron ball that weighted around thirty-two pounds, and could blast through most walls of that time(Ossian).

After the development of this weapons cities did improvements to their different defensive systems. For example after the creation of the sixteenth century cannon, cities built the different forts, and employed that same technology (the cannon) to use it at its advantage.

Architecture needs to develop  with the evolution of weapons to help project the people of the globe.  Architecture cannot take a back seat as technology changes. Architectural dialogue must learn to include technologies being developed today, through material and method to protect the occupants of a building. Although architecture cant completely prevent tragedy, it can be utilized as a compliment to the technology that can in fact help save lives.

Annotated bibliography

The Center for Arms control and Non-proliferation

this websites gives us two very important pieces of information, the evidence and capabilities the U.S. government has collected, and, by looking at the tone in which they write, what they think is the most relevant and threatening. The article lists under the headline “Key takeaways” that North
Korea is believed to have consumed enough plutonium to build between 4 and 8 nuclear missiles. Most importantly however, is that North Koreas is believed to have only short to mid range missile capabilities and have not yet achieved a long range missile that could reach the U.S.. so right now the U.S. doesn’t need to worry about a nuclear missile attack on the lower 48, but the missiles could be used as a threat towards us in bombings of other countries.

CNN news report

“More tests will take North Korea closer to nuclear missile, Pentagon says”

In this article, CNN reports on the annual report the pentagon sends to congress. The pentagon doubts that North Korea will ever construct a missile that could reach mainland U.S. and that the program itself is “ambitious.” Since there isn’t an eminent threat to the U.S. is there a possibility for cheaply constructing nuclear bomb shelters for the under developed countries within range of North Korea’s missiles? Can architecture develop a shelter that can be constructed by unskilled labor?

In this article, the BBC report on the history of North Koreas nuclear testing. The article mentions the global economic and military sanctions approved by the UN. This shows a rough view of how wary the rest of the world is to North Korea’s testing, and also provides insight to a secondary solution to the challenge of saving lives in the nuclear age, which would be complete isolation. By blocking off North Korea from all other outlets of trade and source of revenue, the probability drops greatly of nuclear attack.

Stone Hurling Catapult

The Greeks invented the stone hurling catapult in 400 BCE which became one of the most pivotal weapons used in sieges for the next one thousand years. The invention forced cities to change their defense systems by constructing large, heavy walls around the perimeter of the city. This demonstrates how a city can defend itself from the newest weapon. How can ideas like this be applied to the nuclear weapons of today?

Colwell, Abby. Smith College of Ancient Inventions, “Stone-Hurling Catapult, Greece, 400 BCE.” Last modified 1998. Accessed September 16, 2013. (Colwell 1998)

U.S. Department of the Interior, . National Parks Services, “The Forts of Old San Juan: Guardians of the Caribbean.” Last modified September 16, 2013. Accessed September 16, 2013. (U.S. Department of the Interior September 16, 2013)

Mullen, Jethro. CNN, “More tests will take North Korea closer to nuclear missile, Pentagon says.” Last modified May 05, 2013. Accessed September 14, 2013. (Mullen May 05, 2013)

Kim, Duyeon. The Center for Arms control and Non-proliferation, “Fact Sheet: North Korea’s Nuclear and Ballistic Missile Programs.” Last modified July 2013. Accessed September 14, 2013. (Kim July 2013)

Ossian, Robert. “sixteenth Century Cannon.” Accessed September 23, 2013. (Ossian )


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