The Bunker Dorset, UK


Private Client


Dorset AONB


Spring 2023



A former WW2 bunker on the Dorset coast has been transformed into an inconspicuous yet luxurious holiday home.

The Bunker was part of the ‘Chain Home’ radar system during WW2 and designed to detect incoming enemy aircraft, and signal their position, along with several others on the clients’ land and a perimeter of aerial arrays dotted along the English coast. Located on a working dairy farm within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this forgotten historical artefact has been brought back into use as a functional holiday home.


The brief was to celebrate the enormous historical significance of the structure whilst ensuring a habitable and commercially viable space for the client. After becoming Grade II listed during the planning process, we worked closely with Conservation Officers and Heritage Consultants to develop a proposal which would meet these aspirations.


The design for the bunker is deeply rooted in the structure’s history and retains as much of the original fabric and ‘feel’ of the space as possible. The entrance to The Bunker remains as it was, submerged in the landscape, whilst a new ‘bomb blast’ opening in the existing fabric allows natural light into the space, as well as breathtaking sea views across Ringstead Bay.


An intricate structural solution was required to support the roof and remaining walls as well as allow the new glazed doors to sit seamlessly in the opening. The solution has been concealed internally.

The concrete walls have been left exposed to retain the original aesthetic and the historical layout of The Bunker has remained largely untouched. The design is completely unique and there are no standard details with a building such as this.

A challenging part of the design was the detailing to retain the original internal concrete, whilst also ensuring it is insulated and waterproofed correctly.


It was decided to completely expose The Bunker structure, insulate and waterproof the building from the outside, effectively wrapping it in insulation and waterproofing and then returning the earth and replanting.


This approach has resulted in an incredibly well insulated envelope with thick thermal mass, minimizing energy requirements to heat the internal spaces. The banked earth walls have allowed a covering of planting and foliage to be re-established over the structure and will provide new habitat for wildlife.


Despite the physical challenges, the most important thing for us as designers was to tell the story of The Bunker. Had we plastered and painted the walls, installed standard fittings and timber floors, all sense of the original building would have been lost. It is imperative that when you stay in The Bunker, you are aware that you are staying in a bunker, not any other holiday home and that you are experiencing history. I think we have managed to achieve this.

Jonny Plant


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