Ever wondered what happened to the architects of Germany’s Atlantic Wall? They found employment as instructors at the School of Teutonic Design (STD). Armed with a straight rule, pencil and a love of concrete the graduates of this esteemed organisation have gone on to blight landscapes all over the world. In line of sight of the Sydney Opera House are the iconic wonders of the Sirius Building and Blues Point Tower. These two examples alone, prove conclusively that STD’s are even more pervasive, if Dan Brown is to be believed, than Opus Dei.
Not even our part of the world has been spared.
In a picturesque street in the heart of town, surrounded by some beautifully preserved colonial era houses, sits Das Bunker. Complete with a drive through workshop for the school run Panzerkampfwagen, this house is jaw droppingly out of place. I know we have a reputation for being a rough town, but building a structure fit for residence by a Bond villain is going a bit far. Most people make do with a fence and a dog, and maybe a little barbed wire if you’re at the dodgy end of town. With hard lines, flat roof, horizontal loop holes and an exterior cunningly disguised as concrete, there has been no attempt to blend this home with its surroundings. Albert Speer would be overjoyed. Kevin McCloud, I think, would not.
I don’t doubt that inside it’s a wonderfully kitted out home with top of the range fittings and fixtures, white minimalist walls and long sleek lines. But to compensate for its exterior it also needs to have those design traits that make Kevin go wobbly at the knees and say things like, ‘I want a building which encourages me to have a fully formed relationship with the environment. It gives me an opportunity to not just be inside or outside, but in a range of contexts.’ Which sounds suspiciously like living in a tent to me.
Compared to some of the dilapidated houses in town which are so shot through with holes and rot they’re little better than humpies a tent would be a big step up. A new house, even one as ugly as a bomb shelter, has got to be good for housing prices. If it had been built in a modern suburb full of cookie cutter McMansions—or a Welsh slate quarry— it might have sat more comfortably. One can only hope that given the site next door is empty the street will get a modern make over. A few more pill boxes and the bunker will blend right on in.
Possibly it’s not supposed to. What if the architect wants it to stand out, challenging the accepted conservatism of country buildings while dragging the town into the modern age, like Harry Seidler attempted with Rose Seidler House in the 1950s? Except Harry also designed the Blues Point Tower and most of Canberra’s concrete monstrosities.
So no, it’s still a bunker after all.