Ten planning lessons from the Atomic “City” of Los Alamos

  • Few places on Earth are located amidst such an enchanting and picturesque setting (multiple mesas) which are interlaced with canyons and surrounded by mountains. Scenic vistas abound here.
View from the road leading up to Los Alamos from Santa Fe
  • The logistical challenges of establishing any community, let alone a top-secret one, in such a remote and rugged location, must have been staggering.
  • While purists may note that Los Alamos is technically a small county and not a city, if it walks, talks, and acts like a city…
  • Central Avenue has somewhat of a downtown feel to it, but the mid-century shopping plazas with overly abundant parking lots on either side of Main Street are in desperate need of some serious new urbanism treatments.
Main Street is actually the internal drive between these shopping plazas.
  • Given the unfortunate number vacant storefronts the downtown shopping plazas along Main Street, it’s clearly apparent that a strategic rethink and redesign of this area is needed.
  • Trying to plan a safe and environmentally secure community amid a legacy of atomic research and testing must be quite a challenge.
  • As the birthplace of the ultimate destructive device set amidst a backdrop peaceful and serene beauty, Los Alamos may very well be the ultimate study of contrasts.
  • The presently active security checkpoints to the research portions of Los Alamos combined with the visibility of historic guard shacks and towers reminds one that Los Alamos was once (and may still be) the preeminent gated community.
  • The number of hiking trails per capita in Los Alamos has to be among the highest in the nation.
  • The benign serenity of Los Alamos is a double-edged sword. While it’s provides for peaceful reflection and recreation, it also forces one to consider the ethical and moral implications associated with the what was created here.


If the history of Los Alamos is of interest to you, here are two (2) excellent books on the subject that are available through Amazon.com. *A small commission is earned from purchases that are made using these links to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

This entry was posted in adaptive reuse, architecture, atomic age, cities, civics, downtown, economic development, energy, environment, geography, Geology, government, health, hiking, historic preservation, history, Housing, humanity, infrastructure, land use, military, nature, new urbanism, pictures, placemaking, planning, politics, recreation, Science, spatial design, sustainability, technology, topography, tourism, Travel, urban design, urban planning, walking and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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