Imagining the future of military architecture of the Atlantic Wall in a dynamic landscape of Wadden Sea.

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The Atlantic Wall bunker ruins stand on the coast, abandoned and falling apart. There is a kind of beauty in this scene.

Contradiction between the rough concrete volumes defeated by asoft, ephemeral and seemingly delicate mass of water was the beginning of the research. Analysing the biggest territorial scale -the North Sea- the notion of “clashes” re-appeared. Historically, the North Sea was always an area of conflict. The constant fight between nature and the people trying to harness its power is it its very essence. In this context Atlantic wall seems to be the most contemporary example of the conflict on the area of the North Sea. Remains of Hitler’s plan stretch along the whole coast and in that sense are a direct translation of the territorial scale of the “war” into the architectural one- of a singular building- a bunker.

Yet, the conflict around the Atlantic war was in fact deemed to be a failure from the beginning. From the 15 000 bunkers planned only 6000 were realized by 1943. Then, suddenly, without any actual battle, the war ended. Observing the horizon was the only task of the soldiers until the war came to an end. The “absence” of the war is the essence of this narrative. Conditions of waiting, observing and experiencing the present moment surrounded by nature became a base for guidance and exploration.

Being part of theWadden Sea protected area, the location on the island of Terschelling emphasizes the contrast between the solid bunkers and dynamics of nature. Wadden Sea Islands are known for beautiful constantly changing dunes, inhabited by rich fauna and flora and influenced by regular tidal flows. One of many strong points on the island is the one located just next to the sea-shore, on top of the highest dune was chosen. It consisted of several buildings that were spread around that dune, serving primarily as an observation point.

Now, many years after the bunkers were placed there, some still remain. The passage of time and power of nature has however, changed them. They’ve became ruins. Some walls fell apart, some volumes tilted and moved, some were covered by the sand and overgrown by the grass. The “present ruinous state” of the remnants of the Atlantic Wall was understood here as the fundamental and relevant experience of the history itself and the starting point for the design. Instead of protecting against the forces, the project tries to use them as the main actors in the architectonic setting. The dominant, always present, unstoppable forces of nature are the base for design decisions. The way of
dealing with the knowledge was a strongly intuitive approach, mixing scientific knowledge with atmospheric perception of the nature. Inspiration for dealing with the composition, landscape and the ruins of the bunkers was taken from the archaeological excavation sites- the calculated geometric intervention against the vast masses of land in search of the “treasure” was to be used as the main concept in the design. The project relates to the landscape and experience of walking through the dunes. The wild nature is interpreted into rational concept. The different spaces and their architectonic qualities lead the visitor through subsequent spaces, constantly referring to the context.

The ritual experience begins by leaving the village or the parking area and entering through one of two gates. From a distance, only some of the bunker ruins and the skylights protruding through the sand are visible. Only when cutting through the ground and the building inside are the dimensions of the places revealed. The main buildings are almost all underground and are developed by taking from the architectural language of the bunkers.

The project tries to anticipate the flows of nature and takes the future time into consideration. Even though the building has a function to serve people at the beginning, it doesn’t have to be occupied all the time. It is a monument and its future role is to be there, in the constant condition of anticipation. Following the story of the bunkers that were left on sand to become ruins the concrete buildings are also going to stay and slowly deteriorate.

The cycle will close waiting for yet another chapter.