In the course of our daily reporting, we often uncover unusual projects, places, or connections that don't make the final cut. Instead of keeping it to ourselves, we're pleased to share our weekly Architrivia.

A deceptively small shed welcomes visitors to The Diefenbunker, image by Marcus Mitanis

Though Canada was not as direct a target as the United States during the height of the Cold War, large-scale preparations were made across the country to prepare for a possible nuclear attack. Under Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, the Continuity of Government plan led to the creation of nearly 50 Emergency Government Headquarters, many of which were located in rural areas just outside major Canadian cities. Humorously coined "Diefenbunkers" by the opposition political parties, the shelters were to be used to protect various members of government, and act as a temporary governmental operations centre, in the case of an emergency. 

The Diefenbunker's blast tunnel, image by Marcus Mitanis

The largest of these facilities, Canadian Forces Station Carp, was strategically located approximately 30 kilometres west of Downtown Ottawa, the nation's capital. It began construction under secrecy in 1959 and finished three years later. Extending four levels below ground, the 9,300-square-metre facility was built to withstand a five-megaton nuclear blast from 1.8 kilometres away. The interiors were protected by massive surface blast doors with air filters throughout to prevent the infiltration of radiation. With plenty of storage capacity for food, fresh water, and other supplies, the bunker was capable of accommodating 565 people for up to one month without assistance. The shelter even included a vault for the Bank of Canada's gold reserves and an emergency studio for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 

The situation room, image by Marcus Mitanis

The Department of National Defence owned and operated the facility until 1994, when it was finally decommissioned as the threat subsided. The municipality of Carp subsequently overtook operations and turned the complex into a Cold War museum, housing a broad collection of artifacts within intricately preserved rooms, essentially serving as a giant time capsule. Initially run by volunteers, the increasing popularity of the Diefenbunker prompted the hiring of several staff and today it is one of the Ottawa region's most compelling attractions.

Cafeteria seating inside the bunker, image by Marcus Mitanis

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