The Architecture of Dread

Doomsday peppers consider the COVID-19 pandemic a ‘mid-level’ event that they are well-prepared for.

We’re talking with Bradley Garrett about Doomsday peppers, underground bunkers and COVID-19. Doomsday prepping is the practice of anticipating and adapting to an imagined impending crisis, ranging from low level crises to extinction-level events

“The inability to know which disaster is being prepared for, or at what scale, coupled with the perceived inevitability of catastrophe, has created the palpable affect of dread that preppers are acting on.”

Bradley Garret

Based on three years of detailed ethnographic research, we’re talking with Bradley about a recent paper – ahead of his forthcoming book with more case studies – where he traces the activity of a single bunker builder in Kansas in the United States. Following its construction in the Cold War this missile silo was purchased by civilian Larry Hall in 2008.

Hall is an ex-government contractor, property developer and doomsday ‘prepper’. Since purchasing the missile silo, Hall has transformed it into a 15-story inverted tower block, which Hall calls the Survival Condo. Brad calls it a geoscraper. A community of up to 75 individuals can live in this geoscraper for up to five years. Inside, Hall has created a subterranean, sealed, self-sufficient and luxury habitat.

A cross-section render of the converted Atlas F Silo (image courtesy of Survival Condo. Fig. 2. in Doomsday Preppers and the Architecture of Dread).

Bradley theorises this type of architecture as the Architecture of Dread, drawing on the work of Soren Kierkegaard’s 1844 The Concept of Dread and Sigmund Freud.

“The ‘objectless anxiety’ at the core of contemporary prepping, in contrast to the specific nuclear anxieties driving survivalism, is a ‘sense of existential dread we experience on many fronts’, without ‘much specification of particular risks’.”

Bradley Garret, citing Mills and Campbell

The pool inside the Survival Condo (image courtesy of Survival Condo. Fig. 4. in Doomsday Preppers and the Architecture of Dread).


Bradley Garrett is a cultural geographer based at University College Dublin. His new book Bunker: the Architecture of Dread is based on a three-year ethnographic study with people preparing for social, environmental and political collapse. The research was funded by the University of Sydney and will be published in August by Penguin in the UK and Commonwealth and Simon and Schuster in the USA. 

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