Undoubtedly, there are far simpler construction projects than this hermetic bomb shelter, with its two-metre-thick reinforced concrete walls that date back to the Nazi era.
Until 2009, the seven-storey block with its striking Renaissance-style hewn stone corners was officially a bunker – but it was then placed under monument protection and offered up for sale.
Most people would be put off by such a challenging structure with a dubious past. Not the creative property developer Stefan Höglmaier, who moved into the top three floors with his partner, American singer Oscar Loya, after a four-year planning and construction phase. "For me, the most important thing about the building is that it has its own very strong identity," says Stefan. "It was extremely difficult to approach the building with a sense of seriousness, address this in the architecture and then free it of its past by introducing our very own personal style." Given that the nightmare of the Third Reich ended 70 years ago, it was only logical that they wanted to break with the style of this formidable bunker and introduce a modern design vocabulary.
The lightness of the Swinging Sixties was consciously chosen as the theme for the penthouse. Natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows accentuates the gleaming gold tones of the untreated brass kitchen surfaces, which have been allowed to age gracefully. The floating black-and-gold-striped fireplace that complements the split-level living room is characteristic of the interior design, as are the built-in shelf niches that fulfil an important structural function. "We had to support the roof somewhere without obstructing the view," explains Stefan. The rich rusty-brown walnut of the shelves contrasts starkly with the glossy chrome surface on the patio side, while a natural stone floor in grey was chosen for its sophisticated appeal. "North Italian sandstone has a grain like petrified wood and we laid it like parquet flooring in accordance with its structure – this has never been done before," he adds. The transparent room consciously distances itself from the originally austere character of the bunker.
Descending the spiral staircase to the floor below, however, we arrive in the architectural reality of the building. Light and homeliness had to be wrested from the solid reinforced concrete walls, which were later painted a bold black. Today, deep window recesses have been laboriously cut out of the bunker walls, and low ceilings in their original look and structure characterise the music room. The centrepiece is a glossy Fazioli grand piano belonging to Oscar, who was inspired by his Los Angeles home and commissioned interior designers to recreate the Hollywood Regency style. In its extroverted theatricality with the black-and-white op-art wallpaper, this room is a stage for the artistic work of the musician. "In principle, a building is always a shelter, but here it is totally exaggerated," explains Oscar. "We deliberately wanted to create an unreal and otherworldly aura." He sometimes plays his compositions here to small groups of friends, who listen from the comfort of mahjong seating elements (designed in part by Jean-Paul Gaultier) or from the soft hare-skin rug. The room is immersed in golden light given off by a '70s room-high vintage light column and Venini wall lamps made of black and transparent Murano glass.
"The interior was supposed to reflect our personalities and be playful, because the building itself is serious enough," explains Stefan. "It’s fascinating how well that works. You can still see signs of the building’s past, but the bunker has been changed so fundamentally that it looks light and entertaining." This casual elegance is also in evidence in the lowest floor of the building, which houses the bedroom, bathroom and dressing area. With its muted colours and warm materials, the area exudes privacy and tranquillity while deliberately referencing the Jazz Age. It looks a little like the opulent film set of a cheerful '30s screwball comedy, intentionally thwarting the ascetic functionality of the bunker.
From their expansive roof terrace, Stefan and Oscar can enjoy views of the treetops in Munich’s Englischer Garten and north Schwabing’s modern multi-storey buildings, reminding them of New York’s Central Park. With confidence, the couple concludes: "Buildings such as this one must consistently be conquered – and we did that."
Photography: Christine Bauer | Living Inside