Design on the Battlefront

"Good design is essential, even in the harshest environments. Major Arnold Strong explains how he makes the most of his eight-by-eight foot trailer at an army base in Kabul, Afghanistan."


DC said...

It reminds me of living in the dorms.

Doc Mara said...

Totally. Except this guy has tasted life beyond the dorm. I never knew how ascetic dorm life was until I owned my own refrigerator. I shared a room growing up. I think the design challenges of smaller spaces is so much more interesting, don't you?

Mike @ Vitia said...

Love it, for all sorts of reasons. Here at the Point, the dorms are called barracks, and one of my colleagues, a lieutenant colonel, just spent the summer in Afghanistan building an English department at the Afghan Military Academy. I know he experienced privations similar to the ones described in the article.

When I served in the 24th Infantry, the barracks were dorm-style pods rather than the long rows of 50 bunk beds per side most folks imagine from seeing military movies. But my roommate and I paced it out, and realized that we could get no further away from one another than 31 feet.

Some possible things of interest in MAJ Strong's space:

Toiletries on the left by the door, for taking to the gang showers.

Hand cleaner on the right by the door, presumably because (from my experience) washing one's hands is the first thing one does when one comes home after the duty day.

No TV (it's Afghanistan, after all), and the laptop doubles as the stereo.

Doc Mara said...

The popular culture portrays the military as some sort of authoritarian fantasy (people piled in neat little bunks with sackcloth as the only bed covering). The reality is much, MUCH different (as you describe). Things are spartan, but the military does allow some space for design and creativity. Clay Spinuzzi should probably write a book about the kinds of things you describe, Mike. Limitations with potential for individual expressions of creativity. I had a student last semester who had done a tour in Iraq. He had led a team of soldiers who had created a process whereby the garbage from the people leaving is scoured for useful items and then warehoused for the new arrivals (who usually need the exact things thrown out by people leaving "The Suck"). Individuality in a culture that tries to portray itself as having none. Not always the army of borg.