Crossing the Albanian countryside and mountain valleys, hundreds of thousands of small concrete bunkers are observed.
The latter were built from the 60 years to the 80 years, during the communist government of Enver Hoxha. Albania has had a tumultuous post-war history, alienating itself from all its potential allies for over thirty years: first the Yugoslavs, then the Soviets and finally the People's Republic of China.
Fearing enemy invasions, Hoxha embarked on a 'bunkerisation' policy that saw the construction of hundreds of thousands of bunkers across the country. The premise was that, instead of relying on a national army, every Albanian would take up arms and hide in the nearest bunker in case of an invasion. But no invasion ever arrived and the construction of the bunkers involved only the exhaustion of Albanian resources.
The bunkers were abandoned after the end of the communist regime but, due to their abundance, over the years they were reused in different ways by the Albanian citizens.
Keq Marku, for example, turned a bunker at Shkoder into a tattoo parlor. Located at 8 km from Montenegro, it receives customers arriving from all over Europe. Other bunkers, on the other hand, have become pizzerias, bars, museums (like Bunk'Art) and even hostels.
All this has aroused the interest of developers and designers in Albania and abroad. Saimir Kristo, professor of architectural design, was part of the 'Bed & Bunker' design team, which saw professors and students busy redesigning and reworking existing bed and breakfast bunkers for tourists.
"The economic potential of unused bunkers in my opinion is incredible. ”- says Saimir.
The growth of this 're-bunkerizazzione' is understandably directed to tourism, the most successful sector in recent years in Albania. However, due to the conflicts between the end of the communist regime and the 1997 crisis, many of the Albanian bunkers were looted, vandalized or destroyed.
Despite this, Professor Kristo is optimistic about the future conservation and development of bunkers:
"It is a pity that some of them are destroyed mainly to sell the ruins. Measures should be taken to protect them, map them and initiate plans to revitalize them.
Bunkers are rather controversial structures due to what they have represented in the past. Nevertheless, we managed to convert the former symbols of war and closure for Albania into symbols of peace and hospitality. "
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