Atomic Age Design – Beauty and The Bomb

Welcome to 1950’s America – immersing itself in all things gloriously Atomic – from kaleidoscopic barkcloth to sleek stylish boomerang tables to an episode of The Jetsons. An amorous affair with the molecular which would ultimately shift into a universal apocalyptic dread unprecedented in human history. North American paradox at its best.

And here’s where it all began. In 1939 the physicist, Enrico Fermi, succeeded in splitting the first atom. Fission – and the beginning of the scientific and technological advances that would lead to the creation of the Atom Bomb.

Essentially, the detonation of the first atomic bomb (oddly named “Trinity”) ushered in what came to be known as The Atomic Age. The Atomic Era could be described as a surreal and bizarre period of atomic optimism which initially infused an entire culture with promises of the wonders of a nuclear future. And it left no stone unturned.

This collective obsession with the alluring atom found its way into virtually every aspect of popular culture. Design driven by technology – architecture, industrial design, advertising, interior design, fine arts and entertainment. Feast your eyes – The elemental became “all”.

Atomic Design became irresistible with the use of atomic motifs and abstract organic forms finding their way into all aspects everyday America.

The wallpaper you woke up to, the curtains you closed, the radio you cranked up, the tea towels you dried with, the counter you spilled milk on, the ashtray you filled, the games you played, the motel you heard rumours about. You get the picture.

Meanwhile across the pond the Soviet Union pursued its own atomic technology. Runners at your marks. Ready. Set. And the race had begun.

The Soviet Union worked steadily on its nuclear technology and conducted its first nuclear tests on August 29, 1949 becoming the second nation after the U.S. to create an atom bomb.

And though the USSR didn’t seem to share the same all-encompassing aesthetic obsession with all things Atomic, who could resist that little atom’s appeal?

It seems that while the U.S. loved exploring the marvels of Atomic energy, it wasn’t too pleased that another country could possess it as well. And, slowly but surely, an ominous cloud overcast the carefree days of boomerang bobby-socks, molecular malts and a visit to the Atomic Drive-In. A national sense of unprecedented apocalyptic dread crept insidiously into the American collective consciousness.

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