This month sees the publication by Reaktion Books of Global Undergrounds: Exploring Cities Within, an edited collection I’ve worked on for the past couple of years with Carlos Lopez Galviz and Bradley L. Garrett, as well as 22 other contributors from around the world. The book also features a preface by Geoff Manaugh, who runs the influential website BLDGBLOG and is the author of A Burglar’s Guide to the City (2016). Below is a short description of the book, along with some photographs of a few of the 80 subterranean sites included in it.
Rest your eyes long enough on the skylines of Delhi, Guangzhou, Jakarta—even Chicago or London—and you will see the same remarkable transformation, building after building going up with the breakneck speed of twenty-first-century urbanization. But there is something else just as transformative that you won’t see: sprawling networks of tunnels rooting these cities into the earth. Global Undergrounds offers a richly illustrated exploration of these subterranean spaces, charting their global reach and the profound—but often unseen—effects they have on human life.
This book documents an astonishing diversity of manmade underground environments, including subway systems, sewers, communications pipelines, storage facilities, and even shelters. It finds not only an extraordinary range of architectural approaches to underground construction but also a host of different cultural meanings. Underground places can evoke fear or hope; they can serve as sites of memory, places of work, or the hidden headquarters of resistance movements. They are places that can tell a city’s oldest stories or foresee its most distant futures. They are places—ultimately—of both incredible depth and breadth, crucial to all of us topside who work as urban planners, geographers, architects, engineers, or any of us who take subway trains or enjoy fresh water from a faucet. Indeed, as the book demonstrates, the constant flux within urban undergrounds—the nonstop circulation of people, substances, and energy—serves all city dwellers in myriad ways, not just with the logistics of day-to-day life but as a crucial part of a city’s mythology.
The contributors are: Caroline Bacle, Nick de Pace, Paul Dobraszczyk, Klaus Dodds, Sasha Engelmann, Carlos Lopez Galviz, Matthew Gandy, Bradley L. Garrett, Petr Gibas, Stephen Graham, Kim Gurney, Henriette Hafsaas-Tsakos, Harriet Hawkins, Marielle van der Meer, Sam Merrill, Camilla Mork Rostvik, Alex Moss, Matthew O’Brien, Mark Pendleton, David Pike, Anna Plyushteva, Darmon Ricther, Julia Solis, Alexandros Tsakos, James Wolfinger, and Dhan Zunino Singh.