Building a WWII Bunker in an Office Building by Cal Newport

Building a WWII Bunker in an Office Building

April 29, 2020

A reader recently sent me another entertaining example of the deep life in action.

He runs a design firm with an office in a warehouse-style building that included a cool feature: a “patio,” cantilevered high above the main floor, where he could relax or chat with coworkers.

“While visually very compelling this was a disaster,” he explained. “I basically had thin glass separating [it] from a warehouse where lots of people used, ate lunch, etc…a space with absolutely no functional use.”

Then last summer, on a visit to London, he toured the Churchill War Rooms, a warren of bomb-proof underground bunkers where Winston Churchill and his war cabinet plotted out the Second World War (see above photo). It resonated.

“I was blown away by how focused Churchill and the British leadership was, in these dark, small, and smoky rooms running World War II,” the reader told me.

On his return, he remodeled the office patio into a closed off space inspired by the War Rooms. Here’s an exterior view:

The room has no windows and (crucially) no computers. The walls are covered in whiteboards and the lights are in an early 20th century style:

To honor its source of inspiration, some framed World War II maps adorn the wall:

“I use my [regular] office to do all my managerial, email, and meeting work (lots of Zooms!),” he explained. “Then I move to my War Room for creation, focus, music, and deep work!”

For those who embrace the deep life, form and function become intertwined, while moderation is minimized.

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A brief note: I really enjoy hearing these stories of finding solace in depth during hard times — both in professional and personal contexts. If you have a similar tale to share, I’d love to hear it at author. (Accompanying photos are welcome when relevant.)

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