room: 1220 course: 403C.2 Research Studio
PROJEKTI BUNKERIZIMIT The Strange Case Of The Albanian Bunker
Jason Payne, Associate Professor

Our project is of two parts, moving from general to specific, from repre- sentation to object. The first, a series of renderings and drawings point toward what we call the “bunkeresque,” defines a unique class of aesthetic meant to capture salient aspects of Albania’s bunkers. If the picturesque aesthetic is located somewhere between the beautiful and the sublime and as such mediates the two then it would suggest an aesthetic category of ambivalence, an oscillation from one to the other. With our subject a similar ambivalence is useful to describe an object loosened from original moorings, uncertain of identity. Though the picturesque is not our style of imaging a contemporary bunker project (as we lean toward realism rather than romanticism), we find its impulse to describe strange new forms useful. In this vein we invent a new category of aesthetic expression, the bunkeresque, to capture the strange darkness of these objects.
Bunkers are shy objects, hard to know, suggesting forms of representation that would embrace intentional inscrutability. Paradoxical though it may seem, our drawings are both vague yet exacting, stretching line and tone to the limits of visual registration. Similarly, renderings suppress telltale signatures associated with digital and photographic imagery such that whatever anxieties remain between the synthetic and the real are neutral- ized. The look and feel of our work aligns with that of the objects we study: real objects that seem impossible to believe. In this way we make the Albanian bunker, an object that now orbits just beyond our disciplinary boundary, something properly architectural. Such an accomplishment alone and without further aspiration - the incorporation of a new form into architecture’s catalogue of forms - makes this project worth doing. But there is more.
The second part of our project imagines new bunker forms designed to be built as doppelgängers of existing bunkers. Not surprisingly and given the real history of this form, all previous speculation as to the future of Projekti Bunkerizimit* has promoted various forms of negative projects, projections that would erase (or in milder cases neutralize) Albania’s 750,000 bunkers. Our project takes a different position. Audacious as it may seem we propose the doubling of Albania’s bunkers, conceptually and literally. Every Albanian bunker should have a twin such that each pair becomes a binary object, the latter reversing whatever negative assump- tions are associated with the former such that each new coupling assumes a newfound identity free of former associations. In this way, Projekti Bun- kerizimit lives on.

* Projekti Bunkerizimit translates to Bunker Project, the title given by Enver Hoxha, ruler of Albania from 1944-1985, for his project to build a defensive bunker for every citizen of Albania. Well on his way to achieving this goal, his death in 1985 left Albania with a project unfinished and, given its heavy presence in the landscape combined with its absurd objectives, makes for an ongoing project ripe for interpretation in new ways.
s t u d e n t s : Hillary Bretcko, Angel Gonzalez, Sarah Johnson, Austin Kaa, Julio Perez, Derek Woods, Cheuk Yau