Exploring The Wall

Atlantic Wall
Atlantic Wall

"The Atlantic Wall was the name given by Adolf Hitler to the line of coastal fortifications stretching from Norway to the Spanish border, which was constructed between 1940 and 1944 as a defensive rampart protecting the western limits of Nazi Germany’s European expansion. In little more than four years the Germans carried out what was probably the most impressive building programme since the time of the Romans. The Atlantic Wall generated an architecture of pure form, developed from methods of standardisation on a previously unimaginable scale and the more startling for its contrast with the blatant eclecticism of Fascist architecture in peacetime." (from Hitler’s Atlantic Wall by Colin Partridge)

Whilst walking in Normandy Ianthe Ruthven discovered an old German gun emplacement half-buried in woodland and was struck by its incongruity in this peaceful landscape. Hours spent trudging through muddy fields braving the attentions of bulls and farmers yielded a remarkable variety of forms. Structures formerly dedicated to the defence of Fortress Europe now evoke medieval castles or temples from some lost civilization. The interaction between chemicals, concrete and vegetation generates a variety of abstract and unexpected images as the defences succumb to natural degradation. In urban areas the batteries and blockhouses have been turned into exuberant playgrounds by anonymous graffiti artists. May, 2005 is the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. An appropriate occasion for an exhibition showing the effects of time on the Atlantic Defences.