SOM

SOM

3/7/18

SOM in the Press

Secret Cities of the Manhattan Project to Go on View at the National Building Museum

Oak Ridge housing. Photo © Torkel Korling

Source: The Architect's Newspaper

In the midst of World War II, three new cities sprung up across the United States, built from scratch by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Between 1942 and 1945, Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Hanford, Washington would become home to more than 125,000 people, but, officially, none of these places even existed. In fact, everything that happened inside the three “secret cities” was strictly confidential—even their locations, which were completely off the map.

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To realize their vision, the Army Corps turned to architects like those at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who provided the master plan for the community at Oak Ridge, which would grow to encompass 10 schools, a hospital, 17 restaurants, and 300 miles of road. To make it all possible, a team from SOM, led by John Ogden Merrill himself, set up shop in the town. The Tennessee office would grow to include some 300 architects, making it among the largest firms in the country at the time.

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