For her latest region design at Binemust, Biné Rodenberger offers visitors a most unusual taste of Sweden’s Gotland.
The largest of Sweden’s islands, and also a province, county, and municipality in its own right, Gotland is a fascination place, rich in culture and opportunities for exploration and discovery, offering many unique experiences (ever had a fish cooked using molten glass? If not, Gotland’s Restaurant Rot is the place to go).
Bungenäs, the inspiration for Biné’s design, lies at the opposite end of Gotland to Restaurant Rot, and is perhaps one of the island’s most unusual attractions. During the 20th century, the peninsula was home to a limestone quarry marked by a pair of unique kilns, and a large Swedish Army training zone, complete with bunkers, barracks, and open and wooded training areas. The quarry enjoyed a 50-year run from 1910 to 1960, while the rest of the 160-hectare site was used by the army through until 1963, when it was also abandoned.
For the 40 years that followed, the peninsula was closed to the public, until moves were made to re-open it as a park / tourist destination in the early 2000s. However, entrepreneur Joachim Kuylenstierna – whose father had served in the army and trained at Bungenäs – was concerned about such a move would do to the unique aspects of the location: the ageing bunkers, the run-down buildings and deserted quarry facilities, and so on, if the peninsula was turned into some sort of tourist resort with all the modern trappings – an up-to-date hotel, a golf course and so on.
To ensure this did not happen, Kuylenstierna purchased the land himself and turned it into a most unusual development: a new community location without roads or houses. Instead much of the existing infrastructure of bunkers and buildings would be be converted into unique homes, with the bicycle the primary mode of transport. He employed a specialist architecture firm to convert the bunkers and other buildings into homes and community facilities, and to zone the remaining landscape into plots and parcels that clients could purchase and have homes built to their own specification and fully in keeping with the existing structures and integrated into the natural environments found across the peninsula, and also carefully redeveloped by the architects in keeping with Kuylenstierna’s broad vision.
We don’t design and build buildings – we work with the landscape and the existing constructions to create structures that are formed after their surroundings. We’re not the least interested in creating “boxes” on the ground. Each plot of land is specifically laid-out and, in turn, has its very own zoning plan. The peninsula was also divided into different regions with their own defined type of nature, which required different types of structures.
– Lisa Ekström, Skälsö Arkitekter, developers of the Bungenäs site
Within Binemust, Biné offers her own take on this unique setting, centred on the the old limestone quarry, its kilns and outbuildings. These sit within a low-lying part of the region, the quarry itself flooded, the kilns and outbuildings rising above its rocky ring. Cold sands border the east and south sides of these lowlands, merging with grasslands cut by a fast flowing stream. As the sands curve around to the south, so the land rises to form a bluff between sea and inland quarry, a number of aged bunker-like shells among the sand a grass, hinting at the old military preserve that once existed at Bungenäs.
To the west, a ribbon of sand continues along the coast, marked on one side by old piers that may have once served the lime factory, and a line of old beds that offer a most unusual sun loungers, Biné suggesting they might have been pulled from the old barracks, as is the case at the physical Bungenäs in Gotland.
The north side of the region is marked by a highland plateau, rich in fir trees and crossed by tracks and paths, representing the more natural aspects of the Bungenäs peninsula and, perhaps, the 3 km tour trail that winds through the region – as noted, road vehicles are generally banned from the region to help preserve its natural state. These highlands are also split by the stream, which drops by way of a single waterfall to continue its way the the sea across the lowlands.
There are differences between Biné’s vision of Bungenäs as the real thing: houses at Binemust are represented more by modern structures than converted bunkers; there is a camp site at Binemust, although as Bine notes, there doesn’t appear to be anything like it within Bungenäs. She’s also added horses to roam alongside the sheep (which are a feature of Bungenäs).
However, she’s also replicated some of the original’s cosier features: the mess hall at Bungenäs, for example has been converted into a café with a small suite of hotel rooms above it that visitors can book for short stays. Bine offers the same through a small bed-and-breakfast house tucked away in the region. She also includes bicycles, which for the common mode of transport within the community. Finally, and in a touch of her own, she’s included a small selection from her personal art collection from SL, located in the limestone warehouse, which doubles as the region’s café.
All of which makes for an engaging and educational visit – be sure to look up Bungenäs on the interwebz for yourself when visiting.
- Bungenäs (Binemust, rated: adult)