Bed & Bunker is an international project conducted as a cooperation between FH Mainz (University of Applied Sciences) in Mainz, Germany and POLIS University (International School of Architecture and Urban Development Policies) in Tirana, Albania. The project was realized during the summer of 2012 in Albania near the village of Tale in Lezha.
Bunkers still represent e hot topic in Albania, testimonies of a past not fare enough to be considered history. In the 1970s and 1980s thousands of bunkers of different types were erected for defensive reasons all over the country. Even though they were never used for the purpose that generated them, they never saw a battle, their presence all over the place became strong enough to turn them in the negative symbols of one of the darkest periods of the Albanian history.
Hundred of thousands of them were erected all over the country, in strategic positions that today ironically correspond to the most beautiful and touristic attractive locations. These military structures are of various typologies though only one of them has become an almost picturesque feature of the Albanian landscape. The semi-spherical shaped fortified unit, probably the most well-known Albanian “Character” worldwide. The negative stigmatization and the precious steel they bear on together with their locations so attractive for the developers, are contributing to their mass destruction all over the country.
The bed and bunker project starts exactly in this delicate period, in a time when an important heritage of Albania is threatened, and of course the typology chosen for the project was the above mentioned semi-spherical bunker, so widespread, so famous but also the most endangered one.
The aim of the project was to re-design and re-functionalize an existing bunker, a leftover from the communist period, by changing its fundamental function from a 'war shell' into a bed & breakfast hostel for backpacker tourists.
The project started in March 2012 at Polis University where students assisted by Albanian and German lectures, made their first design proposals. This was followed by the second phase in Mainz, Germany where the main focus of the groups was to finalize and detail the project. The six months long process was finalized by the third and final implementation phase, again in Albania.
The group project main objective was to generate value by design means. Even though there were many individuals intrigued by the idea of reusing bunkers, average people does not recognize these structures as something of value and they tend to clear as much ground as possible by removing them, even an empty plot is considered worthier. Hence building just a fashionable interior wouldn’t had been enough and either way it wouldn’t have meant more than a beautifully painted bunker. That’s why more pragmatic values, functional and economic were considered as well, together with the more abstract, spatially and aesthetically inspired ones.
The material chosen for the project was wood, friendly and natural in opposition to the rude and artificial concrete of the existing bunker. The different materials represent both symbolically and functionality the different periods of the bunker, their first creation, in a time of war, and they new rebirth with a totally different purpose. Beside the differences in material appearance, the curved shapes of the new design try to establish a dialogue with the existing. A difficult dialogue, though apparently not impossible.
Students were able to conceptualize, design and build by themselves a fully functional hotel room, inside an old bunker. They were successful in their effort to create something new and original inside a powerful and difficult preexistence. Also the other target of our project, the one trying to represent publically the attractiveness of the bunkers by spreading ideas that might create the grounds for a safer future for these Albanian endemic building species, was quite successful. Albanian and international people and media showed interest in this projects conducted by a group of 25 Albanian and German actual and to be architects and designers