Secret Wartime Tunnels Revitalization, Dover Castle

Design Brief

Complex project for English Heritage to revitalize the Napoleonic tunnels to present the story of the Miracle of Dunkirk as it was directed from within the tunnels whilst retaining the WWII and Cold War fixtures and fittings.

History of the Tunnels

The original level of tunnels was carved out of the chalk cliffs approx. 15m below the surface under the direction of General William Twiss at the end of the eighteenth century and were first occupied as barracks in 1803. At the end of the Napoleonic War, the tunnels were partly converted and used by the Coast Blockade Service to combat smuggling, but this short-lived endeavour lasted until 1827. The tunnels remained abandoned for more than a century but then during the second World War they were converted into a military command centre from where Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey directed the evacuation of French and British soldiers from Dunkirk, code-named Operation Dynamo in May 1940. The tunnels were again repurposed during the Cold War with the lower level being set up as a regional seat of government in the event of an atomic attack.

Architecture Summary

The project included a substantial technical infrastructure and lighting with uses archive film, still images and computer generated images projected onto the walls and floors of the tunnels alongside a soundtrack that includes eye witness accounts of the events leading up to and culminating in the evacuation of 338,226 soldiers over a nine day period. The project was undertaken in conjunction with Danish Interpretation designers Kvorning Design Communication.

Architecture Summary

The Tunnels are a Scheduled Monument and Accredited Museum so all intervention work required consent. In addition to the cutting edge interpretation installation, our work included the refurbishment of toilets, a new shop fit-out, installation of a new ventilation system, extending the passenger lift to serve the ground floor and various associated external hard and soft landscaping works.

Photographer – Nicolai Perjesi Photography