Bunk’Art 2: From Nuclear Shelter to Museum of Memory - Into Albania

Bunk’Art 2: From Nuclear Shelter to Museum of Memory

This Underground Labyrinth in the Heart of the Capital Hides a Dark Past

An excellent re-imagining of a Communist-era nuclear bunker, Bunk’Art 2 museum and art space reflects Tirana’s initiative to use culture to celebrate the birth of a new era, whilst remembering its solemn past. The unearthing of this underground tunnel in the center of Tirana, echoes the uncovering of ancient ruins in any of the world’s most fascinating historical cities. Each discovery like this breathes new life into a city, recalling times past – marking the end of one era, and the beginning of a new. Bunk’Art 2, at approximately 1000 m2 in size, is the second of two nuclear bunkers in Tirana that has recently transformed into an interactive artistic space. Located on the main block of ministerial buildings in the city’s center, this underground shelter was hidden from the public eye until to its recent unveiling in 2015. Secretly built from 1981-86, beneath the Ministry of Internal Affairs along the city’s main boulevard, the underground structure was given the code name ‘Objekti Shtylla’ (Object Pole) in order to keep its construction undetected. This structure was held as a “great accomplishment” by the Communist regime, which speaks volumes of their overwhelming, and ultimately unnecessary, focus on the protection and isolation of the country from “imperial powers.” In fact, this tunnel represents one of the last installments of Enver Hoxha’s paranoid ‘bunker project’ in Albania during the 1970s. The movement involved the creation of more than 700,000 bunkers across the country, and an even larger underground tunnel at the edge of the capital, which is now Bunk’Art 1. During the construction of Bunk’Art 2, its dome, which marks the entrance to the museum, was damaged by groups who saw it as a “glorification” of the dictatorship. The decision was made not to repair the damage, and in doing so, cemented its place as part of Albania’s historical memory. The journey through this tunnel unmasks the pathological isolation and paranoia of the long 45-year period. Each of its 24 rooms recount stories of the political persecutions of approximately 100,000 Albanians from 1945-1991, the creation of Sigurimi (the state security) during Communism, and exhibitions showing the state’s means of persecution during this dark period of history. For an even more in-depth look at these methods, you can also visit The House of Leaves Museum. The journey nicely concludes on the boulevard facing the setting sun, aptly symbolizing the idea that all tyrannical regimes eventually end, in the ancient world and ours. In Albania, it is precisely the re-imagining of a space like Bunk’Art 2 that signifies the birth of a new era.

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