Stunning pictures show what Albanians have done with the 175,000 military bunkers that were built as the country anticipated nuclear Armageddon during the Cold War.
A coastal resort, a cafe on the beach and a re-purposed border wall are some of the uses for the relics from the country’s communist past.
They have also been turned into simpler designs including a pool house, barbecue and a workshop.
British photographer Robert Hackman pictured 250 of them over the last ten years as he travelled across Albania.
He compiled them in a book called Metamorphosis: The Reuse of Albanian Bunkers from the Communist Era, which he described as ‘a document of the people’s triumph over oppression’.
He told Wired: ‘I wanted to make a record of this transitional chapter of Albanian history, to share not only the bunkers but the Albanian people and their country with a wider audience.’
The bunkers came about during a tough period for the country as Enver Hoxha – who led the country from 1944 until he died in 1985 – became more isolationist from the 1960s.
During ‘bunkerizimi’, they were built in the snowy mountains, on sandy beaches, meadows, forests and even in the grounds of the country’s most famous hotel.
It followed Hoxha’s split with Nikita Kruschev’s Soviet Union and the hostility he had towards NATO as he feared airborne attacks from all sides.
The head of state had the bunkers laid out in lines, spreading from central command bunkers which were visible to all the others to allow for communication through slits.
Their concrete was reinforced with steel and iron, and they ranged in size from small two-man gunner boxes to massive domes with underground networks for high-ranking party members and military officers.
They were a colossal drain on Albania’s economy and did not see action until the ferocious Albanian Civil War of the 1990s and the Kosovo War in 1999.
Bullets sprayed across the dome studded landscape during the civil war and citizens fled to the bunkers in terror during the shelling of the Kosovo war.
More than 25 years since the Communists’ fall, large bunkers have even been turned into sheep barns, bars, restaurants, public toilets, hotels, museums and homes.
The jewel in the crown is a sprawling five-story subterranean hideaway on the outskirts of the capital Tirana to protect Albania’s army command from nuclear attack.
While working for the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees in 2001, Hackman spotted how the Albanians had reused the bunkers and decided to photo them.
He said: ‘I knew it was unusual subject matter and would make a great photographic project.’
But he only threw himself into the project in 2008 and flew from London to Tirana, the capital, where he would drive around the country for two weeks at at time – on the hunt for bunkers.
The owners were usually happy for him to picture them, but added that he sometimes struggled after a day drinking raki, a strong, anise-flavoured alcoholic drink.
‘When I got to take the shot in the evening, I could barely stand.’
During his time with the bunkers, he realised they were starting to disappear – fast.
He made the link between scrap metal prices rising and poorer Albanians breaking apart the shelters using explosives.
Now, the bunkers are protected by the government but they are still disappearing.
Hackman said: ‘I believe the local community has missed an opportunity to be the guardians of remembrance for those who suffered under Enver Hoxha, and also denied themselves a huge income from tourism.’
Some Albanians agree with Hackman as they back the government in trying to protect them.
Students from Polis University, Tirana, turned them into bed and breakfast homes under the name Bed & Bunker in 2012.
And The Concrete Mushroom Project came up with a handbook on ways to turn the bunker into suitable 21st century structures such as beach huts.