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Nazi-era bunker will be transformed into garden-filled hotel

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An air raid shelter in Hamburg will become a “design and lifestyle” hotel

A rendering of a concrete Nazi-era bunker with a pyramid-shaped garden and hotel on top.
A rendering of the nHow Hamburg, a proposed hotel built on top of a Nazi-era bunker.
NH Hotel Group

A Nazi-era bunker in Hamburg, Germany, will be transformed into a 136-room hotel room by 2021. As reported by the New York Times, the NH Hotel Group has plans to develop the Bunker St. Pauli, one of thousands of shelters built by forced laborers to shelter Germans during the Allied air raids of World War II.

The proposed nhow Hamburg hotel would be the third German outpost for the Spanish hotel chain, which also plans to open new hotels in London, Amsterdam, and Brussels in 2020. Renderings show a pyramid-like structure on top of the massive bunker, and the hotel rooms will be supplemented by a tiered, public rooftop garden, a bar, a cafe, and a restaurant.

Bunkers are an important piece of Hamburg’s architectural history; the Nazis built more than 1,000 bunkers in Hamburg alone, more than any other German city. The St. Pauli bunker is one of the largest, featuring thick walls that could shelter tens of thousands of people at a time. It was constructed in only 300 days by 1,000 forced laborers from concentration camps, and the Nazis also used the bunker’s high walls to launch anti-aircraft fire at Allied planes.

An aerial view of an imposing square-like, tall concrete bunker surrounded by trees and city streets.
A photo of the St. Pauli bunker from 2000.
ullstein bild via Getty Images

City officials considered destroying the St. Pauli bunker after the war, but plans were abandoned because the dynamite needed to bring down its walls would also damage the surrounding neighborhoods. Since then, the bunker has been used as a broadcasting hub, a work space for musicians and artists, and a venue for concerts and night clubs.

How—or whether—Nazi-era sites should be developed and repurposed within modern-day cities is a topic fraught with challenges. Plans for the nHow Hamburg hotel include a memorial for the victims of the Nazi regime in the rooftop park. Some historians and former residents, however, are critical of mixing memorialization with luxury tourism, saying it glosses over the atrocities of the Nazi regime.

A similar discussion has marked the redevelopment of the Prora “Strength Through Joy” resort, a beachside complex filled with concrete dormitories erected on the northern island of Ruegen. The sprawling retreat never actually opened to Germans due to World War II; it was instead used as a military compound by the Nazis and eventually the East Germans. Today, Prora has been redeveloped into an upscale beach resort, with a hotel, condominiums, and pools.

Want to learn more about the architecture of the Third Reich? Check out Curbed’s podcast episode, Germania: Architecture in a Fascist utopia.