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Concrete Mushrooms | Bunkers in Albania

October 20, 2009

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BUNKER: A hardened shelter, often buried partly or fully underground, designed to protect the inhabitants from falling bombs or other attacks.

The definition of the word bunker is so legitimate and clear, that any person leading a country would consider employing them to protect his or her people against an attack. It would even be a human action, if the threat were real. But, what really happened in Albania? What does a bunker mean for an Albanian? The Concrete Mushrooms project, a research project by Elian Stefa and Gyler Mydyti for the Politecnico di Milano tries to clarify what bunkers mean for Albanian inhabitants, as they quote in the research papers: “Today, bunkers in Albania are a legacy of the paranoid past, permanent reminders of where this country comes from and the challenges that lie ahead.”

We found this amazing research project thanks to a tweet wrote by @bldgblog and spent some great reading moments through Albanian history [thanks Geoff!]. The research project studies  the history of Albania, but focused in the reason of building the bunkers all over the country [More than 750.000 Albanian bunkers were built during Hoxha regime to prevent possible external invasions], how the people of Albania nowadays coexists with them, how and why do they use them. Stefa and Mydyti says that “it is also thought of how the remaining bunkers can last their lives without being totally disappeared and can become the icon of a paranoid past transformed to the symbol of a bright future of the landscape of Albania.”

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The bunkers, also known as “pillboxes” coexists with the current common life in Albania, people is used to see them, even to play with them and that’s why the priority of “Concrete Mushrooms” project is facing the symbol of xenophobia (bunker) with deliberate awareness for the purpose of inverting its meaning, the preservation of the memoir of a significant period of the Albanian history, giving bunkers value instead of having them as burden and as a result the promotion of an underdeveloped touristic sector such as Eco- Tourism which has an enormous potential at the same time growing the financial viability, social and environmental sustainability.

If the project succeed, the hotel results will be a kind of Daspark Hotel but with deep implications in the historical memory for Albanian people. With more than 750,000 bunkers it will be such a big effort to try to locate all of them and then looking for a proper way of re-using the original structures. There is even a dotted map with exactly 745,145 bunkers and the result was that in every 196 m of Albania’s 28,748 km2 area there is ONE bunker.

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Today, even though Albanians ignore them or just forget about them, they are there, still trying to show their potential and disposition to be used. Bunkers seem to be happy of being born and living in Albania, and above all proud to be Albanians.But in fact their happiness masks an enormous sorrow of the past which would be recovered by their contribution to Albania.

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More info about this amazing project at their web-site and at the research PDF. –Enjoy!!

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