Title: Bunker Archeology
Author: Paul Virilio
Publication Date: January 12, 2009
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
Paul Virilio an architect of theory (which is the opposite of a theorist for architects). He organizes theory, making it useful. There is no better reminder of this than Bunker Archeology, his 1975 masterwork, which has been out of print since 1994. The book has been reprinted by Princeton Architectural Press.
Revisiting this volume was not the trip down memory lane I thought it would be. Instead, the writing and photographs, like the Second World War Nazi bunkers that are its subject, stand as raw reminders than most everything we discuss in architectural design theory is irrelevant to anything but the present. Death, war, infrastructure, and the eclipsing destruction made possible by 20th century technologies are all things Hitler and the Allies made perfect possible use of, and these are the complete context of our current times. The phones and bombs and radio programs have improved, but their highest best use were already conceived by the actors in that War. The most important actor of course is Albert Speer, architect, whose position in the Third Reich allowed him to conceive and execute total war. Virilio's telling of this leaves me feeling that we are living out someone else's future.
The essays have a raw power that matches those of the photographs, making them undateable except by the closest scrutiny. It is a useful scrutiny, one that needs revisiting by architects, if we are to write our own future.
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