An Entire Society Living Underground?

An Entire Society Living Underground?

Soaring housing costs in Beijing has caused a new phenomenon among students and migrant workers as they seek shelter in bunkers underground. 

bunker-home.jpg

In the late 60's and 70's, Chairman Mao feared the nuclear fallout of the Cold War and demanded that apartments with bomb shelters capable of withstanding the blast of a nuclear bomb be constructed. Roughly 10,000 bunkers were made and are now home to more than an estimated million people - mostly migrant workers and students from rural areas. 

image © Marilyn Shea

image © Marilyn Shea

Despite the large populous living in the bunkers, many residents are hoping it is just short term alternative housing until they can secure a livable income and afford a place above ground.

image © Aljazeera

image © Aljazeera

Their desire to make the underground life temporary is because the living conditions aren't desirable. The rooms are typically shared with multiple people and while they have electricity, plumbing, and a sewage system, the air is stagnant and moldy due to the lack of proper ventilation.

image © Antonio Faccilongo

image © Antonio Faccilongo

In addition to shared rooms, some individuals have even converted empty shelters into community centers. So individuals can enjoy similar leisure activities of those above ground by visiting their underground bar, beauty salon, and billiards room.

image © Antonio Faccilongo

image © Antonio Faccilongo

Despite the community atmosphere of the bunker, there is little to no interaction between those that live above them. Likewise, those above the bunkers are often unaware that individuals are living below ground or choose to ignore them since the bunkers entrances are not hidden.


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Source: Aljazeera America, City Lab, National Geographic

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