View current page
...more recent posts
Paul Virilio's classic book of wartime architectural history, Bunker Archeology, is finally back in print with a fantastic new edition from Princeton Architectural Press. The book had taken on the feel of something like an urban legend—something of which many had heard but few had directly experienced—so it's good to get our hands on a copy.
In 1945, Virilio explains, World War II having finally come to an end, he "discovered" the sea as a 13-year old boy. Until that point, the Atlantic Ocean had been entirely inaccessible, transformed into a heavily fortified landscape by a new, concrete terrain of Nazi bunkers and machine gun nests, all of it surrounded by the ruined killing fields of modern warfare. "The discovery of the sea," Virilio writes on the book's opening page, "is a precious experience that bears thought. Seeing the oceanic horizon is indeed anything but a secondary experience; it is in fact an event in consciousness of underestimated consequences."
What follows from there is an unforgettable tour, verbal and photographic, of the French Atlantic coast—paying particular attention, architecturally, visually, and philosophically, on the abandoned Nazi bunkers that litter the landscape. The book, written in a strange but effective genre somewhere between personal memoir and architectural theory, makes for a broken reading experience, but not from lack of quality: There are so many insights, so many lines worth writing down, that one is almost constantly reaching for a pen or a Post-It note in order to take notes.