WW2 Bunkers-The Subject of Contemporary Controversies and Urban Conversions

WW2 Bunkers The Subject of Contemporary Controversies and Urban Conversions1

WW2 Bunkers have become a great nuisance in the post-war years, while some have been demolished early on , others have been left in place and as time passes the municipality no longer has the funds and resources to demolish these huge structures. The Bunkers themselves can be destroyed , given enough time will and resources, as some were demolished at the end of the war by the british army, namely the ones in the Berlin Zoo. But some were left to either be engulfed by the reconstructed urban network , or solitary monuments to war and violence , like the Aurgarten Flak Tower in Vienna. These Bunkers faced with conversion one way or another , in some cases being completely changed by their new function , as their brutal exteriors could fit in with some modern architecture currents . In some cases their destruction seemed necessary while in other instances it seemed like they, too,  were a part of the city’s history and monuments to the tragic moments through which the city passed during WW2. Unique in appearance and purpose , these WW2 bunkers are a staple of architecture in its most extreme point, making the most out of both form and function.

During the latter part of WW2 , throughout Germany , Austria , Poland and other countries war would not only destroy towns, but it would ironically , also build some indestructible structures which would come to haunt the cities of  Europe in the second half of the 20th century. In 1943 the allied bombing campaign began taking its toll on the axis war effort , cities were regularly bombed whether to reduce morale or cripple the war industry , allies were flying around the clock to knock out the german war machine by means of strategic bombing. Very many people died and the destruction was considerable, since simple anti-aircraft batteries were not effective on their own but only in large numbers and even then, it was very difficult to hit enemy bombers at high altitudes or during night. The answer lay oddly with civil engineers and architects : bunkers for the civilian population and massive gun platforms.

In designing such structures and buildings there was a faint concern during the war on how it would affect the city landscape in peace time. At first bunkers were split between various sizes , and almost every time , the civilian bunkers were camouflaged to look like buildings and built within the city and next to worker houses or close to apartment buildings. In some cases attempts were made to conceal the brute nature of the bunkers by making them appear more like medieval fortifications , complete with vaulted arches for the windows or corbels . In some cases the bunkers were built to resemble Romanesque and Gothic churches in their ground print so as to be left alone by allied bombers , these were generally built before the later half of 1943 when the need for air defense and shelters would rise considerably. Plans for a bunker system throughout Germany were made early on, when allied bombers began attacking  german cities in 1941-1942, the system would extend to every city within the Reich where a significant portion of industry was present. Given the intensity of the raids bigger, bunkers were planned and executed at a fast pace , but as the war waged and resources were stretched thin , the idea of the Flak Towers came in to being.

The system would be composed of two sections , one housing civilians and one being the gun platform . German designs varied and produced a series of different shapes for the huge bunker fortresses . The number of bunker types and their shape varied throughout the war , in 1942 they were designed to resemble civilian buildings and whenever possible they mimicked even medieval or neogothic buildings like defense and water towers but by 1944 their shape became more massive and  less attention was given to details. This meant that they began to look like huge concrete boxes of enormous size and scale compared to the rest of the city, and as the war waged on these structures were the only ones left standing among the ruins of german towns and cities and/or cities in occupied countries of the greater Reich.

As stated above, with many of these structures being built, architects began wondering how they would impact the city after the war, so plans were made to improve their visual quality after the war through the use of various materials on the facade. In some cases the exterior would have added details , and the exterior concrete walls would be covered in marble of different colors or new masonry models would be added. After the war , reconstruction began in many cities and the concrete mammoths were left among the urban landscape in parks and neighborhoods , the municipality being unable to demolish them as some were over 1 m thick and could withstand a 1800 kg bomb hit and would take tremendous amounts of explosives and effort to detonate and destroy these bunkers. Where it was possible they were transformed into museums or mementos of the past and became tourist attractions , but some were simply left abandoned in the urban landscape and became monuments of a more violent and sad past history of Europe.

Most are left to their own fate and became huge graffiti boards or perfect places to practice for rock climbing . A few conversion attempts have been made , most notable in Berlin were a civilian defense bunker has been converted to house the contemporary art collection of Christian Boros , and to be the art collectors house also. Another example is the transformation of a Flak Tower into a heating power plant, housing both a biomass heating boiler for one of Hamburgs districts for heating in winter while outside solar panels will collect electrical power during summer for the same purpose. Both are some of the most interesting projects , and of the few to successfully adapt a hostile space made with the bare minimum of aesthetic considerations and in complete opposition to the rest of the urban landscape.

Bunkers during the war showcased below.

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Those are not grain silos or water reservoirs .
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Anti-Air Bunker standing among the ruins of the city.
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Flak 38 battery atop the bunker, note the special ammunition vault.
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view towards the control tower and the gun platform tower in the foreground
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People seeking shelter entering the bunker during bomb raids
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A second generation tower like the ones still standing in Hamburg and Vienna

The Hamburg tower converted into a heating power plant :powerplant homesthertics (1)

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Berlin civilian air raid bunker housing Christian Boros’s art collection.

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Andrei Vasiliu

Andrei Vasiliu

Andrei is master of sketches, models and dioramas here at Homesthetics, a skill-set that greatly emphasize his architecture background. He is responsible for curating and approving all content that ranges from pencils and airbrush kits as he tests them thoroughly in his artistic pursuits.

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