Monday, April 30, 2007

Bunker Touring in Berlin

[UPDATE [July, 2, 2010]: The images that were once seen here on this post have been removed due to request from Holger Happel of Berlin Underworld's Association. Sadly, this organization has a very active web policing apparatus that denied me permission to use the images from its website in mention of them here. Why, I have no idea. Subtopia makes no money, doesn't even have a single advertisement. If anything, we here are providing a good free advertisement for Berlin Underworld, which they have failed to appreciate in even the most minimal of manners. So, screw them! And so much for bringing Berlin's Underworld to light!]

More exciting than the surface of the city itself can often times be perhaps a city’s underground, that vast dark reciprocal hollowed space that some how helps prop up everything above it, a colossal settlement, a global city. I’m always blown away thinking about how so much urban weight can rest on essentially a tangled network of constructed voids, or an infrastructure of more or less empty space.

Much of what we can’t see in a city is what sometimes fascinates me the most. For example, we can sit back from the right distance and look at the city, glimpsing it in all its grandeur – in the totality of its being framed in a single glance. But, that is a perspective we can never achieve with the underground – it is marvelously un-seeable this way and therefore emblazes our imagination with fits of subterranean landscape speculation. Instead, we can only imagine a massive skeleton of transit tubes and secret chambers some how coming together to magically lift an entire city skyline up and over the horizon.

But, in that secluded, restricted, privatized sub-city where old histories silently linger and whole populations of urban secrets are engraved in the spaces of formal and informal architecture – where military and urban planning join, or homeless camps and fall out shelters cross paths, that overlap of use is what I find particularly intriguing. It is the thriving unknown city that cannot be seen which aches for my attention.

Well, ever since the Nazi era Berlin has (to some degree) existed in this kind of shrouded urban parallel, and I am still annoyed that I have yet to make it there. Especially after coming across this article which introduced me to the Berlin Underworlds Association, “a non- profit group founded 10 years ago" that broke "a long held German taboo by erecting a shield pinpointing the notorious underground bunker site.”
Apparently, the group has grown and now organizes “selected tours of remaining World War II bunkers and shelters in and around the city.” Now, bunker touring may be nothing new, but Berlin does offer quite a subtopian treat since close to “1,000 underground bunkers were built during the Nazi era” for which close to a third have survived.

The article lays out a few spots that are worth checking out, like the Kurfuerstendamm, or “a prime example of bunker architecture” that persists at the corner of Albrecht and Reinhardtstrasse close to the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. There is of course the Tempelhof Airport (that may actually be turned into some kind of opulent beauty clinic), or, perhaps the most popular site “found at the Pankstrasse underground (U-Bahn station).”

But, just as old bunkers are opened up to the intrigued throngs of global tourism new bunkers take their shape if only so far in the public’s imagination as rumours swirl over the government’s plan to build “a “new” 220-million-euro Interior Ministry premises in Moabit,” to - hypothetically - make up for the lack of a bunker in the old premises. I wonder, how much volumetric space is taken up in underground bunkers, how much air capacity exists trapped in these concrete structures? I've asked this before, but could we estimate exactly how much real estate, or in this case, air space, is devoted around the world to the underground?

Nevertheless, if you are in Berlin, or are headed there, it would more than likely be unbelievably cool to go visit the Berlin Underworlds Association and tour the old vintage bunker cities of Nazi Germany. Hell, tell ‘em you’re a reporter for some crazy website called Subtopia and your researching for a book on post-military landscapes and spaces of global underground refuge and see what they say – who knows, they might open up some secret vaults just for you! You never know, I mean, I'm just saying - keep hope alive!

(All images were taken from the Berlin Underworlds Association website, except for the Tempelhof Airport, which comes to us via Regine.)

[See these earlier posts on bunkers: Bunker Sprawl; Touring the Greenbrier; Secret Cities of the A-Bomb; Area 71; Washington's New 'Survival City'; A Silo Full of Cash; Secret Soviet Submarine Base; Fortress Baghdad; The 'Long War' enters its capsule; Subterranean Urbanism; Tokyo Secret City; Bunker Archaeology; Smugglers' Paradise Uprooted; [Re] improvising sub_Base landscapes; Secret Synagogue; Mt. Seemore and the watchful gaze; from Leftover-Bunkers to Tourist-Traps...; A "Closed Atomic City": Open for Business]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I live in Berlin, and have seen their ads around. Now, to join a tour...

3:14 AM  
Blogger Bryan Finoki said...

Cool. If you do go, let me know how it is. Very curious. Go get lost down there, have fun!

9:18 AM  
Blogger Snooker said...

The tours are cool… literally and figuratively. They are “made for the masses”, and so cover only the coolest, most easily reached areas. But I’m sure that these people would really enjoy showing you more. They even dive underwater to check out areas which have been taken back over by nature. As for Tempelhof Airport… I’ve heard that it is quite interesting. Of course it was designed by Speer, and the tunneling is extensive. Unfortunately I’ve never made it.

Berlin is cheap! Come on over!

12:25 AM  
Blogger Aim 1 said...

Tempelhof is designed by Ernst Sagebiel and not Albert Speer.
it's going to be closet October 2008
I have been on the tour, and it was fantastic.

10:01 PM  

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