(I posted something earlier and was asked to edit it. I'm new here so … learning is painful, what can I say)

I'm Derek B. Miller. I'm the author of Norwegian by Night, The Girl in Green, and American by Day. I have a forthcoming sci-fi novel called RADIO LIFE being released in autumn, 2020. I am already prepping for the sequel, and you folks are the go-to source for great ideas.

Set-up: It's roughly 400 years from now. In about 2100 (to keep dates simple), the world population was wiped out, mostly from countries acting badly. Nano-tech was used to deliver bio weapons; nukes were used in a few cases; the vast majority of the world pop was killed off. Many animals, of course, but they have largely recovered.

The question is quite focused now: What condition would we likely find the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain?

Keeping in mind climate change (natural and worsening between now and 2100); water levels changing; acidity; natural plant growth in formerly populated areas (etc.), animals wandering about it.

FINAL THOUGHTS: 1. You have time between now (2020) and the collapse (2100) to add some tech and engineering solutions to try and preserve the building — not in anticipation of a war, but certainly in anticipation of a worsening climate 2. It is OK for people to have either stayed there for shelter (and therefore continued to tend to it) or discovered it a hundred or two hundred years later and decided to stick around. 3. THERE IS NO INTERNET ANYMORE. The world went Digital, the digital failed, and now no one knows anything. So no using hi-tech solutions AFTER 2100.


— Derek

  • $\begingroup$ There’s a LOT to consider. Worth taking a quick look at the things that utterly depend on us still being here in order to develop your process of elimination. Coast lines need constant maintaining, anyone living in a town built around an estuary knows how bad things can get. Nuclear plants left to their own devices will become one hell of a hazard. The orbits of satellites and stations will eventually break down sending them crashing downwards or spiralling outwards... $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 20:16
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    $\begingroup$ ...Anyone who shows up centuries after we’ve bit the dust may struggle to determine our tech-level. Their best clues will be concentrations of radioactive materials; half lives bring what they are. I regret that even the Titanium you mentioned will eventually oxidise and/or be buried one way or another; planet Earth is great at recycling it’s surface. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ That’s a small tip of a massive iceberg. I’ll invite others to chip away at the ice. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ There are very many buildings made more than five hundred years ago and still standing, sometimes with little or no maintenance. And in Europe there are many massively overengineered buildings, made either during the war or by enlightened Communist (and even not Communist) powers; for example, during the war Germany built many flak towers, which afterwards proved very resilient to demolition attempts: I bet they will still be standing after five centuries. Basically, the question is asking for an endless list. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ The TV show Life After People suggests that after 200 years the metal structures of most buildings will have corroded to such an extent that they will collapse. This includes reinforced concrete. So no metal or metal framed structures will exist after 2300 in this scenario. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 5:08

2 Answers 2


Locations which are already hardened against erosion and corrosive effects should last for quite a while... Chemical storage tanks and fallout shelters.

Also, tough concrete constructions might not be pretty after four hundred years, but they might still be habitable. Multi-level parking garages are built to carry tons of load, so they are probably strong enough to last a while. Subway stations, bank vaults (if not the banks themselves), hardened military bunkers and prisons should also be okay.

In addition to bridges, other public works including traffic tunnels, sewers and drainage canals are built for the long haul. Beyond that, anything build using concrete block should have quite a lifespan. Their roofs might be gone but can be rebuilt from manually harvested lumber.

Finally, although your readers may be entering the world 400 years after an apocalypse, your characters won't be. They will likely be the descendants of survivors and will have whatever knowledge of construction techniques that can be salvaged from the golden past. Housing is a tier one life requirement, so in the years directly following the event, salvaging the skills needed to put a roof over one's head will be secondary only to finding a way to fill one's stomach. Your characters probably won't be limited to using the decrepit left overs of their fallen ancestors. They will have developed a new culture and new answers to the questions which all cultures must address.

Others will probably mention the various documentaries which track the decay and destruction of our cities after we mysteriously disappear, but that is not really the case in your story. There are survivors and those survivors will have multiplied in the years following the bio-war. Those survivors will have maintained the structures they choose to live in and will have kept at bay the encroaching jungle overgrowth.

You should probably think about your question from a different direction... Where would the survivors of a bio-war choose to settle afterwards and what structures would the choose to defend against decay? These will be the structures which will be extremely habitable even 400 years after the fall.

  • $\begingroup$ Henry (if I may): I'm new to this site, so I'm still not sure what to add or not. So first, thanks for the thoughts. Not only do I agree, but the first novel (Radio Life, forthcoming with Jo Fletcher Books at Quercus) attends to all of this. It's set around an Olympic Stadium built close to 2100. I've updated the question. Perhaps you can take a look? I'd appreciate your thoughts on the revision. Warm wishes. Derek. $\endgroup$
    – Arwood
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 9:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Arwood I can tell you a thing with high chances to stay the same over centuries: the PET bottles in landfills. Some landfills have 100m+ in depth - what will they tell to archeologists 400 years from now? mbapolymers.com/news/news-biggest-landfill $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 12:16

The pyramids

They'll probably look about the same.


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