Bjarke Ingels Group’s latest project is a museum and visitor’s center in a subterranean bunker built by the German occupiers during World War II. The abandoned bunkers dot most of Europe’s coastlines, barnacle-covered hulks that remind us of the embattled continent of our grandparents’ childhoods. Other architects have thought to repurpose them, as temporary camping sites or even data storage centers. Denmark’s largest bunker, called Tirpitz, was left incomplete by the Germans in 1944. Right now, concerts and art shows are held within its moss-covered walls. Soon, if all goes according to plan, the bunker will be part of a 7,500-square foot development called the Blåvand Bunker Museum.
Tirpitz is embedded into sandy, coastal hills next to the coast of the North Sea. BIG proposes maintaining the continuity of the natural landscape by embedding most of the proposed exhibition space beneath the dunes. Four open-air troughs will connect the four subterranean spaces, terminating together at a square courtyard space nestled below the sand. Each of the cut-outs leads to a separate exhibition hall, which will function independently when the museum opens.
As for the hulking bunker itself, the architects imagine something more obvious: a glass-and-steel recreation of the stationary gun that might have sat on its concrete turret. Inside, the gun’s two barrels will host telescopes, rather than artillery. It’s a “ghost or reflection of the war machine it was meant to be,” write the architects, “at once critical and respectful of the bunker architecture.” More pragmatically, it’s also a skylight, flooding the bunker with light. A transparent staircase leads down into the gloom below.
Some are questioning whether the museum’s four-pronged plan could have been better chosen, suggesting that the cut-outs are reminiscent of a swastika. That seems a bit hasty, since right now in plan we see only a square courtyard with a straight line jutting from each corner. The past two years have been filled with similarly unintentional faux pas, like MVRDV’s “9/11 tower” scheme in South Korea. But in both cases, any shared likeness with symbols of tragedy seems completely unintentional. Some might argue that if contemporary architects should be condemned for anything, it’s their devotion to such unironic literalism. Someone needs to get Robert Venturi or Denise Scott Brown on the horn and ask them to weigh in on this.