Atlantic Wall Linear Museum

Gennaro Postiglione

PhD arch associate professor (DPA-Politecnico di Milano)

The Atlantic Wall Linear Museum

DPA-Politecnico di Milano Piazza Leonardo da Vinci 32 IT-20133 Milano Italy

www.atlanticwall.polimi.it

The DPA (Department of Architecture) of the Politecnico of Milan, together with the GRAI (Grouppe de Recherche sur l''architecture et les infrastructures) of the Ecole d''Architecture de Versailles (F), and the Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation, Catholic University, Leuven (B), has managed a research programme within the EU programme "Culture 2000" (Call 2004) concerning the Atlantic Wall, one of the last major defence lines of this century, built by German occupation forces in the period 1942-1945 along the coasts of France, Belgium, Channel Islands (UK), The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Norway.

Atlantic Wall, scheme of organization levels (maps courtesy of Freiburg Military Arkive, Koblenz Military Arkive, Danish Royal Library/Copenaghen)

During this period more than 12.000 heavy concrete bunkers were built, a number impressive in quantity and in the cost and labour involved. Many prisoners were forced to work on the construction and lost their lives there, intersecting private stories with social history.
The project underlines the Atlantic Wall''s architectural, aesthetic, and Cultural Landscape value as a trans-national Cultural Heritage, preserving a shared memory on European soil an heritage to be safeguarded and protected through the creation of The Atlantic Wall Linear Museum.
The infrastructure, a unique example of its kind, is of great interest for many reasons, including the architectural quality of its vast building system, the ability of these objects to define a new aesthetic canon for modernity, and the relationships they have established with their natural and urban contexts, essential elements for interpreting cultural landscapes.
The military fortifications, moreover, represent the most widespread Heritage of European Culture, preserving a public and collective memory of WWII.
The state of abandonment of much of the Atlantic Wall jeopardizes both its existence and the values it represents. Preserving this collective memory and public history is essential for an Europe intent on building its own future.

Action fulfilled by the project.

The Atlantic Wall Atlas

Unknown site, 1944 (photo courtesy of Koblenz Military Archive)

The publication of an Atlas, presenting an historical documentation of maps of the areas concerned, is the first concrete step towards recognizing the infrastructure''s value, and indispensable for the creation of a Linear Museum.  The Atlas also comprises a series of photographs proposing a critical analysis of the infrastructure and the relationship it has formed with its surroundings. A specific photographic campaign, by Guido Guidi, served both as a testimony and an interpretation of the structures.

The Travelling Exhibition

The Atlantic Wall Traces: Cultural Heritage, Collective Memory and Common Roots for the Forthcoming Europe presents, in a concise and evocative way, a selection of materials (maps and photographs) proposing critical interpretations which will stimulate the development of a collective, shared consciousness of the architectural, aesthetic and landscape dimension of this immense cultural heritage.

The main objective of the exhibition is to oppose the process of the Atlantic Wall''s disintegration resulting from public neglect, and to re-appropriate, on a European scale, its specific character as a testimony of memory resistance and as a possible monument for the creation of peace.

The International Convention

The Atlantic Wall Traces: Cultural Heritage, Collective Memory and Common Roots for the Forthcoming Europe promoted a critical discussion of the work, research and objectives undertaken, and served as a forum for exchanging ideas and interpretations of the Atlantic Wall infrastructure. The diverse analytical approaches and proposed papers by representatives, partners, participants as well as other outside parties involved, are included in the Atlas.

The Web-Gateway

Lokken, Denmark, 2005 (photo courtesy of G. Guidi)

The Atlantic Wall Linear Museum website is the only place where objects, landscape and memory can effectively meet and relationships can be drawn between a multitude of elements, emphasizing certain characteristics.
As a didactic instrument capable of reaching a large audience over a vast territory, the Web-Museum represents a shared archive for conserving and displaying following the strictest museum traditions an heritage whose value and vastness contribute to legitimizing the existence of a Europe both geographical and socio-political.

The AW Linear Museum

The promotion of an Atlantic Wall Linear Museum, underlining a common historical and cultural identity within the context of the European Union, is one of the main objectives of the project: still far to be accomplished, for the Linear Museum realization there are two undergoing processes. An International idea Competition for students of Architecture, in order to look for visions related to the vast AW heritage and the proposal to build a committee to present the AW remains at the attention of UNESCO World Heritage List.