In preparation for the outbreak of WWII, Nazi architect Albert Speer built over 200 bunkers in and around Berlin for civilian and military shelter. The immense size and density of these structures represented a keen foresight into the destructive power that war was to have on the city. These well-constructed concrete buildings withstood the heavy artillery that destroyed much of the city, and today are stark reminders of a history that many would like to forget.

Unlike other buildings constructed by the Nazis, the bunkers did not contain an excessive classical arrogance often employed by Albert Speer, Hitler’s personal architect. The facades of these buildings are starkly plain; they are not slave to the aesthetics of an architect, but are foremost engineering projects. The thick structure is formed of reinforced concrete, which contains at varying intervals, small slit like openings allowing for air to ventilate out. The structures were built to implode, allowing the concrete to take in the compression forces without collapsing. In the concrete walls you can see the markings of the wood board forms used, producing a boat like texture in the light. So well built are these structures that they cannot be easily destroyed, and this has been the key to their survival.

The solidity of these abstract forms offers a seductive appearance to the passing pedestrian. Entering inside it becomes clear that they were not designed for the comforts of human occupation. The low ceilings and lack of natural lighting create a cave like atmosphere. Still, the dark, musty and cramped buildings must have been a welcome comfort in comparison to the firestorm raging in the streets.

In Berlin it is evident that its military past has created many layers of discomfort. The teenagers forced into German service were destined to an aftermath of near total destruction of their city, and humiliation and scorn from future generations. It is clear that these few concrete bunkers have become, for the survivors of the war, monuments to the soldiers who died to save the city. These structures are not the pompous buildings of Hitler’s diluted vision, but are the buildings of the common people, the slaves of hitlers vision who were sent to fight and die. Unlike other buildings of the war, the bunkers cannot be given a new face or roof and be weaved back in the city. It is a valuable monument, a void in the city, an important reminder of things that can no longer be seen or are no longer spoken of.

©polar inertia 2003