Skip to main content

Distributed for Reaktion Books

Global Undergrounds

Exploring Cities Within

Rest your eyes long enough on the skylines of Delhi, Guangzhou, Jakarta—even Chicago or London—and you will see the same remarkable transformation, building after building going up with the breakneck speed of twenty-first-century urbanization. But there is something else just as transformative that you won’t see: sprawling networks of tunnels rooting these cities into the earth. Global Undergrounds offers a richly illustrated exploration of these subterranean spaces, charting their global reach and the profound—but often unseen—effects they have on human life.
The authors shine their headlamps into an astonishing diversity of manmade underground environments, including subway systems, sewers, communications pipelines, storage facilities, and even shelters. There they find not only an extraordinary range of architectural approaches to underground construction but also a host of different cultural meanings. Underground places can evoke fear or hope; they can serve as sites of memory, places of work, or the hidden headquarters of resistance movements. They are places that can tell a city’s oldest stories or foresee its most distant futures. They are places—ultimately—of both incredible depth and breadth, crucial to all of us topside who work as urban planners, geographers, architects, engineers, or any of us who take subway trains or enjoy fresh water from a faucet. Indeed, as the authors demonstrate, the constant flux within urban undergrounds—the nonstop circulation of people, substances, and energy—serves all city dwellers in myriad ways, not just with the logistics of day-to-day life but as a crucial part of a city’s mythology. 

320 pages | 60 color plates, 20 halftones | 6 1/2 x 9 | © 2016

Architecture: Architecture--Criticism

Reaktion Books image

View all books from Reaktion Books


“Well worth dipping into for its worldwide take on the sheer variety of ways we humans have spun our subterranean webs. . . . These underground stories remind us that buried spaces are places of protection as well as of the fearfully unknown, of hope and of political resistance, of science as well as persistent chthonic mythology. There’s always a quirky and sometimes a grisly journey to be had beneath our streets.”

London Evening Standard

Global Undergrounds serves as a catalog that positions eighty underground sites of urban, suburban, and rural development, and most segments offer a connection to the culture of the present and the past. . . . Diverse authors offer approaches as academics, official visitors, tourists, or adventurers, engaging with spaces and places that usually remain hidden from both sight and mind.”


"Treats the subject properly and carefully the editors acknowledge that this is a world not often seen, one hidden to nearly all, yet one which holds a fascination for anyone who wonders what lies beneath their feet. It is done extremely well, specially as the layout is appealing, being enriched with color photographs of sometimes obscure underground places it is a book to dip into that becomes difficult not to dip into the next section of engaging text. . . . Cavers, mine historians, and urban explorers will all enjoy this read. . . . A substantial and attractive book book with diversity as its major strength."

Descent Magazine

"The volume takes a unique shape, composed of eighty brief essays, each around two pages, from twenty-six contributors. Their geographic reach is truly global, touching every continent. Each contribution analyzes an underground site, memorably and often personally, in a style that varies from autobiographical to journalistic or ethnographic, which strongly suggests travel narrative. The book is richly illustrated with color images, mostly photographs by the contributors. Though not as systematic as an encyclopedia, the collection was similarly assembled from voluntary contributions. More scholarly than an atlas or travel guide but equally attuned to particular spaces, places, and their various social uses and meanings, the book could well inspire travel or urban exploration."


Global Undergrounds takes us fascinatingly deep into the unknown worlds of the urban subterrane: the hidden zones where we store, hide, secure, repress, bury and extract. For a book so concerned with darkness, it dazzles in its curiosity, wit and knowledge. This bunker-Baedeker opens a new vision of the city to us – the vertical city, extending far above our heads and far below our feet.”

Robert Macfarlane, author of "Landmarks" and "The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot"

Table of Contents

                Global Undergrounds
                Geoff Manaugh
                Exploring Cities Within
                Paul Dobraszcyk, Carlos Lopez Galviz and Bradley L. Garrett
                Taming the Quagmire: Cloaca Maxima, Rome
                Journey of an Underground Army: Xi’an
                Protective Labyrinths: Sint Petersburg Tunnels, Maastricht
                A Skiff, Fish and Wells: Basilica Cistern, Istanbul
Old, Deep, and Discreet: Cappadocia’s Underground Cities
Under Kingdom: the Layers of Mexico City
                Absurd Space: Williamson Tunnels, Liverpool
                Hidden Labour: Broad Street Subway, Philadelphia
                Salt of a Mining Cathedral: Zipaquirá, Colombia
                Human Life Underground: Vale un Potosí, Bolivia
                Infrastructural Fetishism: York Metro Extension, Toronto
                Wares, Rights and Stars: Delhi’s Metro and Bazar
                Underground Outback: Coober Pedy, Australia
                Beneath the Neon: Flood Channels, Las Vegas
                Death Squads and Firebombs: Sewers of Bogotá
                Mateship Below: Melbourne Drains
                Class Dividers: Lower Wacker Drive, Chicago
                Diggers and Deserters: Odessa Catacombs
                Into the Vortex: Brighton Sewers
                Waste and Work: New York City Sewers
                Lost Undergrounds: Atlantic Avenue Tunnel, New York
                Repressed Wastes: London’s Sewers
                Burying Incomprehensible Horror: Yucca Mountain Nuclear Storage
                Sinking Histories: Berlin’s S- and U-Bahn tunnels
                Bunker Art: Christian and Karen Boros Collection, Berlin
                Bedrock Memories: Nottingham’s Caves
                Remembering the Map: Prestwich Memorial, Cape Town
                Underground Clouds: Hong Kong Data Centres
                Mirror of History: Berlin’s Water Tower
                Haunted Spaces: Edinburgh’s Medieval Vaults
                Visiting the Dead: London’s Victorian Catacombs
                Temporal Disjunctions: Abandoned London Underground
                Adopting the Dead: Fontanelle Cementery, Naples
                Communist Ghosts: Plovdiv Seismological Lab
                Orpheus in the Air-raid Shelter: Underground Theatre, Prague
Striving Underground: Stockholm’s Atomic Bomb Defences
                Sheltered Lives: Shanghai Civil Defence Shelters
                Remote Shelter: Andersgrotta, Norway
                Defence of the Nation: National Redoubt, Switzerland
                Undergrounds at War: London’s Second World War Bunkers
                Tortoises, Oranges and Giant Tunnels: Bunkers, Albania
                Surface Terror: Tokyo Chikatetsu
                Dark Tourism and Data Dumps: Reusing Missile Silos in the American West
                Subterranean Insurgency: Joint Tunnel Test Range, Arizona
                Sent Down: Oxford’s Prison Tunnels
                Under Control: Metro, Santiago de Chile
                Crossing Borders: Tijuana and San Diego
                Vertical War Zones: Gaza Tunnels
                Insurgent Strongholds: The ‘Hidden City’ of Viengxay
                Defensible Spaces: The Underground Cities of Kinmen and Matsu
                Ideology and Fear: Prague Metro
                Intractable Histories: Moscow’s Secret River
                Reverse Modernization: Saw Mill River, New York City
                Remaindered Flows: The Irk Culvert, Manchester
                Subterranean Sublimes: Roden Crater, Arizona
                Remaindered Spaces: Manchester’s Air-raid Shelters
                Under Construction: Buenos Aires Subte
                Cinematic Space: Vienna’s Sewers and The Third Man   
                Remaking the Map: Golden Acre, Cape Town
                Encountering Undergrounds: Levitated Mass, Los Angeles
                Cameras and Cleaning Balls: Paris Sewers
                As Above, So Below: Paris Catacombs
                Cracks in the System: Antwerp Pre-metro
                Urban Layers: Athens
                Secret City: Burlington, Wiltshire
                Under the Ice: Polar Undergrounds
                The City and the City: Underground Seattle
                Urban Rhythms: St Petersburg Metro
                Unruly Spaces: Cairo Metro
                Edge of Existence: Abandoned Bratislava Metro
                Mystic Caverns: Grand Central Terminal, New York
                Buried Waterways: Brescia Underground
                Off the Map: Cape Town Tunnels
                Futures Past: Pyongyang Metro
                Sleeping Dragons: Future Ruins of CERN
                Segregating Symbols: Dubai’s Metro
                The Great Society: Washington’s Metro
Slow Modernity: Sofia Metro
Time Underground: The Clock of the Long Now
After the End: Svalbard Global Seed Vault
Notes on Contributors
Photo Acknowledgements

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press