Underneath Tiranë, the capital of Albania, there is a five-story bunker of spidery hallways and over 100 rooms. Originally codenamed “Objekti Shtylla,” the shelter was built in the 1970s under the orders and direction of Enver Hoxha, communist leader of Albania for over four decades. What was once intended to protect Hoxha and his cabinet in the event of a nuclear attack is now a mixed-use art and culture center, but with a keen eye towards preservation and remembrance of the dark years under Hoxha’s rule.
Known as Bunk’Art, 24 rooms of the sprawling shelter have been converted into a history museum and contemporary art gallery, the result of the combined efforts of the Albanian government and a nonprofit art collective called Qendra Ura or “Center Bridge.”
Inside are living quarters and meeting rooms, staged as they would have been at the time, for Hoxha, his officers, and their soldiers. One room, originally the dictator’s own office (it’s a little swankier than the other quarters) even playing his voice on a loop if you pick up the phone receiver and listen.
Hoxha died a few years before the bunker was completed, and it was never actually put into service. It was completely unknown the public, the only way in and out from inside the secretive ministry. In order to open it up, in 2014 entrance and exit tunnels were built, which add to an anticipatory eerie quality when visiting.
But once inside there is a world of bright and evocative contemporary art, right alongside the stark fallout rooms and photographic displays. In addition to providing space for visual artists, the old bunker theater is used for frequent concerts, lectures, and other events. You can see additional photographs, and find out more about the bunker, here.