German bunkers become homes

German architect Rainer Mielke lives in a luxurious, light-filled penthouse atop a Nazi bunker that his elderly neighbours remember sheltering in during World War Two.

The architect has pioneered the art of converting the grim structures into bright living or working spaces, and his work is set to increase as Germany ramps up sales of the above-ground forts, originally designed as air-raid shelters.

"At the beginning, the authorities thought I was a bit daft," said Mielke, who spent six years in the 1990s begging the property office in the northern city of Bremen to let him buy the bunker he now lives in. They didn't think anyone would really want to live in a bunker."

It turns out Mielke was on to something. After early tentative sales efforts, Germany is now stepping up a campaign to sell the structures and this month launched a competition for conversion ideas.

But there's also a catch: nearly all were built with forced labour. And as bunkers become hot property, critics warn against treating them like any other real estate without acknowledging their past.

"The advantage is that you can plan freely because there are no supporting walls," said Mielke, who converted the entirety of his first bunker once it was decommissioned. "The disadvantage is that it's quite difficult and requires a lot of special knowledge."

"There's a premium for bunkers in nice districts where you just don't have much choice otherwise," said BIMA's Gerd Oligschleger. He said Germany was stepping up its sales and hoped to auction off the remaining 170 in the next few years.

Source: The Province