Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
Sderot has about 200 shelters. A city initiative tries to turn them into something less foreboding.
When a "code red" alarm goes off in the city of Sderot, Israel (about a half mile from Gaza), residents have 15 seconds to find shelter. The shelters (there are about 200 of them) are a familiar site around the city of 25,000 people, which isn't fully protected by the country's missile defense system.
The Israeli government, according to the Sderot Media Center, spent nearly $150 million on the construction of bomb shelters after the Gaza War that lasted from December 2008 to January 2009. Architectural symbols of the region's instability, these shelters are a source of anxiety for locals. Noam Bedein, the director of the Sderot Media Center, told Reuters that many city residents, especially children, show symptoms of PTSD.
To help address the problem, a recent city initiative had artists turn these shelters into something a little more inspirational. Though they still serve an all-too-serious purpose, the shelters are painted with color and personality, each one different from the next and a symbol of the city's creativity as much as its vulnerability.
Photographer Finbarr O'Reilly documented many of these shelters recently, sharing in a Reuters blog post that he wanted to photograph each one at sundown when the least amount of people were out, hoping to convey the "sense of foreboding" he felt in Sderot and the artistic contrast its bomb shelters now provide: