Session details


José Vela Castillo (IE University) and Pedro García Martínez (Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena)


US Military Bases, Cold War, Cultural exchange


After World War II, a new geopolitical landscape emerged, divided in two blocs confronted by military, ideological and economic interests. This scene lasted at least until 1989. 

During that period, the United States, as the hegemonic power of the Western Bloc, established a number of military bases in allied European countries in order to safeguard its interests. They were placed not only in the occupied Germany or in the recently liberated Italy, but also in France and England and in countries like Spain, Greece or Portugal, that became strategic because their peripheral location. 

The larger bases were conceived as authentic urban settlement. In addition to the necessary military infrastructures, they were provided with all kinds of urban facilities (supermarkets, churches, schools, theaters or hospitals). They were like real cities, whose planning schemes followed American suburban patterns. Huge technical, economic and human resources were mobilized, drawing on the recently acquired expertise of the US Army.

Over time, it can be observed these Bases not only acted as nodal points that allowed a substantive cultural exchange between the Americans and the locals, but also that they influenced the development of the local urban fabric in different ways. 

In some cases, bases helped to boost the growth of small cities (existing or newly created) located nearby. In other cases, they were absorbed into larger cities, becoming a part of them as foreign bodies. 

The session aims to improve knowledge and understanding of these urban phenomena across Europe and to share information and documentation on the Bases and its influence in the urban history of various European cities.

The papers in this session will present a panoramic view of some of the underlying process at stake with a wide geographical scope, including case studies from West Germany, Greece, Portugal (the Azores) and Italy.


Cities and Cities. Reflections on the Impact of the US Military Bases in Spain and their Urban Environments


José Vela Castillo (IE University) and Pedro García Martínez (Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena)


US Military bases, Spain, Urban planning


The program of military bases built by the US in Spain after the 1953 US-Spain Agreements comprises a set of very different installations on size and purpose. Four major bases were built for the Air Force and the Navy, complemented by a set of smaller ones and a network of communication stations of varied scope. The four main ones were designed almost as small cities in themselves, having a distinctively urban structure of American provenance. Yet besides that, they were also built in the vicinity, and in some case in close vicinity, of existing Spanish major cities (as Zaragoza, Seville or even Torrejón) or small villages (Morón-El Arahal, Rota), that were inevitably affected by them. This not only happened at the cultural or just daily life level, but also at the urban structure level, that in cases like Rota was directly determined in its growth by the base itself.

This presentation will review and analyze some of the main examples of this dual relation between the cities that the bases themselves are, and the urban environments with which they stablish an almost symbiotically constructed relation, at the level of the urban fabric.

Troposcatter Communication System in Northeast Italy. The Disused NATO Bases in Cavriana and Dosso dei Galli


Olivia Longo (University of Brescia) and Davide Sigurtà (University of Brescia)


NATO Bases, Italy, Landscape


In this contribution, we will analyse the Troposcatter listening stations around Lake Garda in relation to their architectural, tactical and relationship details with the surrounding landscape. In particular, we will analyse the infrastructures of the Base in Dosso dei Galli in the province of Brescia and the Base in Cavriana in the province of Mantua.

The Troposcatter Communication System (Tropospheric Scatter) is made up of communication nodes created as an alert system on the border of the Soviet Bloc to communicate with all areas of NATO and these with the USA.

The reading of the architectural and landscape peculiarities of these stations begins with the consideration that almost all of them were built at high altitudes, in the way to facilitate linear transmission.

Another peculiar element is the presence of communication systems consisting of large metal paraboloids, which had a size of about 20 meters in diameter, and therefore clearly identifiable as elements that make up the overall skyline of the listening base.

These features were generally present in all Troposcatter Bases. For this reason, we can therefore speak of a standardized and clearly identifiable architectural language with limited urban impact on the area in which it was built (in volumetric terms or occupied surface), but with major implications in term of view and landscape, because the antennas were and are clearly identifiable in the long distance.

This became and maintains an important territorial sign in an area strongly characterized by a marked naturalness since it was located in high mountains or in isolated area.

We will show the reuse project of the disused NATO base in Cavriana that will be use as a gathering place for possible emergency situations. The construction is financed by the Lombardy Region, and it will be carried out within this year.

On the disused NATO base in Dosso dei Galli we will show some design ideas for its reuse, which were elaborated during the virtual Winter School “Re-Inhabiting cold War Sites”, organized by the University of Brescia in February 2021.