Bunker Albania - The recycling and reuse.
In 2001 I was commissioned by the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees to travel to Albania to document the last of the Kosovar refugees. During this time I became fascinated by the bunkers that dominated landscape. My first encounter with a bunker being used by civilians was in a new suburban area just outside of the capital city Tiranë. This large artillery bunker contained a pool table, which I was told was the local meeting place for the community. Returning several years later to the same bunker it become apparent that with the establishment of local bars, the pool bunker was no longer in use and had become a storage building for the neighbouring house. At this moment I realised that it was paramount that I start photography the use of bunkers before this phase of Albanian life was extinct.
This now completed body of work investigates the re-use and recycling of the wealth that the bunkers retain. Between the years of 1975 and 1988 an estimated 500 000 bunkers were built. This construction program of 13 years consumed a massive amount of the state’s wealth. Although there are no records in the State archive, one engineer I interviewed informed me that he toiled for twelve hours a day, 7 days a week for eight years. The raw materials used would have kept the expanding population in housing for decades. These two statements alone indicate the effort and magnitude of the bunkerfication of this isolated Stalinist state. With so much wealth invested in these monoliths, this photographic project depicts how Albanians have extracted their inheritance by reusing the bunkers as cafes, restaurants, accommodation, agricultural buildings, bridges, swimming pools, and water reservoirs.