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The mural on the Altona bunker, Source: Andreas Dressel on Facebook

World War II bunker in Hamburg becomes art centre and heating plant

World War II bunker in Hamburg becomes art centre and heating plant

The project is spearheaded by a local cooperative, dedicated to making the space useful to the community

A neighbourhood initiative in Hamburg found an investment of half a million euros for an abandoned World War II bunker in order to convert it into a local energy production facility coupled with an arts centre.

Residents of the Altona neighbourhood in the Hanseatic City have been pressuring the authorities to do something with the space for the last decade. However, the renovation costs of the bunker sat at the hefty sum of 15 million euros – way outside of the local budget.

Hamburg’s Finance Senator Andreas Dressel explained that this will not be a public-private partnership. Rather, the city’s investment will go towards a neighbourhood grassroots cooperative that will have to finance itself.

Reclaiming the past

The cooperative plans to earn money through heat pumps and wood gasification – a process of burning wood at extremely high temperatures, offering better energy alternatives. The ex-bunker will be able to provide energy to over 1,000 homes. The space will be equipped with community gardens, and cultural and rehearsal spaces by the year 2025.

Famous Hamburg Graffiti artist ‘1010’ painted a huge mural on the façade of the concrete structure to kick off the urban reclamation process. The art project was funded by a local gallery through the sale of art prints.

Andreas Dressel explained that this is an initial push aimed at strengthening the grassroots initiative, however, it will have to become self-sufficient and sustainable in the future.

Altona’s district chief Stefanie von Berg explained that this was an excellent example of reclaiming World War II infrastructure in the modern-day – an intriguing split between energy production and culture.

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