The Hungry Eyes: The Anxious Topographies of Enver Hoxha’s Bunker Program in Albania1

in Architecture and Control

Although catastrophising is not a term commonly employed within architectural discourse, it is extensively analysed in medical research, especially within cognitive science. The basic premise of catastrophising is that individuals develop absorbing, and ultimately consuming, thoughts of catastrophe. Once this condition becomes the predominant or even default mode of thought for a person or group, a sense of paranoia deepens. Paranoia, in its most elemental sense, is a type of anxiety. But as most of us can attest from our own experiences, anxiety can lead to unreliable thoughts, especially when it surfaces in situations in which danger is not a genuine or realistic threat. It is important to mention that while the spatial context of anxiety is often tacitly acknowledged, such as in the term agoraphobia, it nevertheless remains understudied, especially within architectural history. This contribution considers how architecture participates in the drama of human anxiety and suspicion. A recurring theme in this analysis is that of containment: the attempt to deflect or prevent harm through the deployment of (passive) defences, in particular concrete bunkers. Using the plethora of bunkers built by Enver Hoxha’s communist regime in Albania as a case study, this chapter ultimately examines how man-made interventions that are specifically designed to reassure communities paradoxically manifest conditions in which insecurities are acutely realised.

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