Design for the War Room in ‘Dr Strangelove’

Design for the War Room in ‘Dr Strangelove’ Kenneth Adam (born 1921), UK, 1962

In ‘Dr Strangelove’, the concept for the War Room – the principal setting of this bitterly ironic film about the prospect of nuclear warfare – came from director Stanley Kubrick’s idea for a reinforced-concrete bomb shelter.

Production designer Kenneth Adam dramatised the space by using backlit maps, display boards and a huge circular baize-covered table, which turned defence planning into a poker game. Final concept drawing of felt-tip pen on card for ‘Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’, directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1964. Additional section to drawing, 1999 Sir Kenneth Adam, London

Kubrick said:

“As I tried to build the detail for a scene I found myself tossing away what seemed to me to be very truthful insights because I was afraid the audience would laugh. After a few weeks of this I realized that these incongruous bits of reality were closer to the truth than anything else I was able to imagine. After all, what could be more absurd than the very idea of two mega-powers willing to wipe out all human life because of an accident, spiced up by political differences that will seem as meaningless to people a hundred years from now as the theological conflicts of the Middle Ages appear to us today?”

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