Technician adjusts wood model of North American B-25 Mitchell inside a wind tunnel (source: Library of Congress)
There may be a future project, one that looks at research facilities and laboratories not just as places where knowledge is produced, but also as places where the most extreme conditions are manufactured. A good example is a return-flow wind tunnel (above), which uses condensers and other equipment to simulate high or low atmospheric pressures. The two following examples, however, I find fascinating for the types of extreme architectural conditions they represent.
The first example I can think of is an anechoic chamber. Anechoic chambers are rooms designed to curtail, shape, or even prevent sound propagation. Typical examples contain some type of foam or cork sound baffling. The example below, from the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, England, is interesting as it is a room for testing radar equipment. This particular room, dating from the 1980s, is shielded from RF waves. The foam bafflers look menacing, almost like teeth. It is as the room were designed to literally eat soundwaves.
RF-Negative Anechoic Sound Chamber at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, UK (NMR.Crown Copyright)
The next example comes from NASA's Project Fire, a testing program from 1964-1967 designed to simulate the re-entry of an Apollo Command Module in the Earth's upper atmosphere. The idea was to understand the conditions of extreme heat, pressure, and friction a capsule would experience upon its descent.
Project Fire documentation (source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
The image below shows a section diagram of the Project Fire re-entry vehicle. It is, in essence an Apollo capsule crammed with telemetry equipment and various other sensors. The vehicle was launched from Kennedy Space Center , entered low Earth orbit, and descended in the vicinity of Ascension Island.
Project Fire II Re-entry Vehicle (source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
The below image shows a static test of a Project Fire vehicle. Here, technicians adjust the testing model inside a small, metallic room. On either side, large metallic perforations channel and radiate the incoming flames. Farther off, in the center of the picture, a concrete aperture provides a peek into a barren landscape. Presumably, some type of rocket booster would be placed inside the aperture and fired inside the room.
Project Fire static test preparation (source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
The above buildings are not of the type usually featured in architectural surveys. They are of special architectural interest, however. These are rooms, if not for habitation, but for silence and incineration. It is an odd affirmation of Steve Shapin's dictum about entering the spaces of science in 18th century England: "We can, it is true, make the occasional trip to places where scientific knowledge is made. However, when we do so, we come as visitors, as guests in a house where nobody lives."