The German submarine base in Bordeaux, France, was built in 1941 under the orders of Admiral Donitz, to establish a protective base from which Nazi submarines could patrol the Atlantic. After its completion in 1942, it housed a significant fleet, including 42 u-boats. The base was abandoned by the Germans on the 25th of August, 1944, just before it was seized by the Allied forced.
The massive, fortified structure used 600,000 cubic meters of concrete to build, and covers a total area of 43,000 square meters, or 10.6 acres. Today, a memorial stands in the base to the Spanish and Portuguese prisoners of war who built it, and especially to those who died in the building.
Bordeaux has occasionally visited the idea of tearing down the base, but considered it too costly and dangerous a process. Today, the building sees a sparse variety of use. Sections host concerts or outdoor theater, and yachtsmen use it as shelter while they work. In 2018, an art group called Culturespaces was given management of the place. They created a $15 million ‘digital art center’ in four of the eleven immense submarine bays, in which detailed projections turn the cement walls into massive, glowing canvases, and they call the project the Bassins de Lumieres. It is believed to be the largest digital art center in the world.
Some of the walls are more than 300 by 36 feet, making the art projected onto them a immersive, epic spectacle, often doubled with watery reflections The exhibition’s launch was supposed to be early this spring, but COVID-19-related closures delayed it until Wednesday, June 10th. The inagural exhibition features Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, whose works were at the center of several post-Nazi reclamation lawsuits in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Klimt’s works will be accompanied by smaller exhibitions of works by his contemporaries Egon Schiele and Paul Klee, two Germans with whom Klimt shared influence.