“A border is not a connection but an interval of resonance, and such gaps abound in the Land of the DEW Line. The DEW Line itself, the Distant Early Warning radar system installed by the United States in the Canadian North to keep this continent in touch with Russia, points up a major Canadian role in the twentieth century, the role of hidden ground for big powers. Since the United States has become a world environment, Canada has become the anti-environment that renders the United States more acceptable and intelligible to many small countries of the world; anti-environments are indispensable for making an environment understandable.”
"The artist is an antenna"
The Geodesic Radome is the synecdoche of modern warfare post-WWII—an architecture that distributes its structural forces through a framework formally related to the communication network it defends.
Echoing Paul Virilio who argued in 1975 “the bunker is the last theatrical gesture in the endgame of Occidental military history”, the geodesic radome is the first architectural gesture in the play of Network Centric Warfare (NCW). With the onset of the Cold War, foreign policy shifted into game theory where communication of ideologies between players functioned as much as propaganda as defence asset—such as the strategy of M.A.D (Mutually Assured Destruction). In order for these strategies to be implemented new infrastructures, including the integrated air defense systems SAGE and DEW, were rapidly developed by the US Military, private corporations like IBM and Western Electric and research centres such as Massachusetts Institute for Technology’s Lincoln Labs. A joint venture between the US Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force, the DEW Line (or Distant Early Warning Line which became operational in 1957) was a network of remote radar and communication outposts extending across the high Arctic from Alaska, across Canada, to Denmark's Greenland. Always on alert for USSR bombers flying over the icecap to deliver nuclear warheads, the outposts utilised new technological developments in the fields of radar and automatic signal detection. In order to protect these electronics from the harsh environment of the Arctic, Lincoln Labs collaborated with Buckminster Fuller to design the rigid geodesic radome—an advancement from Buckminster’s earlier steel struts design to an electromagnetically invisible shell needed for antennas.
Today the same regions invested in the Arctic during the Cold War (Canada, US, Russia, Norway, and Denmark) are again turning their attention towards the North driven this time by melting temperatures and greater pressure for natural resource extraction resulting in a renewed confrontation that could be called the “Warm War.” The Cold War might have ended in a successful negotiation over the frozen “nomad/no man’s” landscape of the Arctic, but will the current battle over natural resources and sovereignty in a rapidly melting world share the same quiet fate? A germane topic today, sustainability is not just a trend concerning a particular architectural design but the infrastructure and networks between nation states that will determine not only what—but who—is sustained in the future. The DEW Project revisits the issue of boundaries—both in regards to the environment and sovereignty—while observing how communication technology plays a pivotal role in the definition and delivery of such ideologies.
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