|"QUANTUM SHOT" #536 |
Link - article by Simon Rose and Avi Abrams
Imperial dreams... and the agony of taste
Fascist and communist governments in the first half of the twentieth century both created monumental architecture, largely to intimidate their people and showcase the regime's strengths.
In a totalitarian system such as existed in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945, the government attempted to control every aspect of daily life. It used architecture to some degree to achieve this, to firmly establish its authority leaving no doubt as to who was in charge. One of the chief aims of Nazi architecture was also to reflect the beliefs of National Socialism, celebrate the German national identity and glorify the idea of the master Aryan race, as perceived by Hitler and his associates.
(images via 1, 2)
Imperial Rome all over again
There was no official Nazi architectural style although most of the structures and monuments designed by Albert Speer and others imitated Imperial Rome. Hitler was an admirer of the Roman Empire and imagined himself to be creating a realm to both rival and then surpass that of the Caesars. The Nazis, who dismissed much of the customary decoration and used only the raw, muscular elements, exaggerated the classical Roman style, which portrayed their ideal image of a strong, warlike state. This was known as stripped classicism and was not only used in Germany, but was relatively popular in other countries as well in the inter war period.
World Capital Germania
Hitler had Speer, his favoured architect, design plans for the rebuilding of Berlin. This was a monumental task in itself, to create Welthauptstadt ("World Capital") Germania, the new city, which would be the capital of German-dominated Europe. The photographs of the plans for Hitler's city survive to this day in the German federal archives.
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A grand boulevard, three miles in length, to be known as Prachtstrasse, ("Street of Magnificence") would run from north to south. A huge arch would be located at the southern end, which would be almost 400 feet high and able to fit Paris' Arc de Triomphe inside it. At the northern end would be the Volkshalle ("People's Hall"), an enormous domed building designed to be the centrepiece of the new Berlin.
(images via 1, 2)
Based on the Pantheon in Rome, the Volkshalle would still be the largest enclosed space on the planet if it had ever been built. It would have been over 700 feet high and 800 feet in diameter, sixteen times larger than the dome of St. Peter's in the Vatican. Inside, there would have been space for 180,000 people and there is speculation that such a huge capacity could have caused the building to have its own weather system. In colder temperatures, the perspiration and breathing of so many people might actually precipitate and fall back to the ground, almost as indoor rain.
The Big Dumb (Concrete) Object
Berlin is located on marshy ground and there were some concerns as to whether the land would actually be able to sustain such massive structures. Consequently some testing was undertaken. The Schwerbelastungskörper ("Heavy load-bearing body") was constructed in 1941 to test the muddy ground.
(image credit: epha)
The mushroom shaped cylinder is made from 12,650 tons of concrete and is sixty feet high. Instruments measured that the huge block sank seven inches in three years, more than the 2.5 inches deemed acceptable, making it unlikely the soil could have supported Hitler's new capital without substantial preparation work. The massive Schwerbelastungskörper couldn't be demolished at the end of the war because of the proximity of nearby apartments and has been considered a historical monument since 1995.
Olympic Stadium for the Superior Race' Triumph in Sports
Most of the huge projects were halted with the outbreak of war in 1939 or as the war progressed, then turned against Germany and the country's attention turned to more pressing matters. Some structures were completed however, including the Olympic Stadium. Germany was awarded the 1936 summer Olympics in 1931, and once Hitler came to power he was determined to use the event for propaganda purposes. Work on the stadium was begun in 1934 and when completed in time for the Games had a capacity of 110,000.
(images via 1, 2, 3)
An even bigger stadium, the Deutsches Stadion, designed for some 400,000 people, was planned for Nuremberg, but the project was abandoned shortly after the foundations were completed. Had the stadium actually been built it would still be the largest arena of its kind in the world.
Berlin's Olympic Stadium survived the war relatively unscathed and the area was used as a headquarters by the British occupation forces in the city until 1994. The stadium was at one time considered for demolition, but was eventually completely renovated and played host to the World Cup Final in 2006.
The Reich Chancellery, built to intimidate
Another building that was actually finished was the new Reich Chancellery, which was built in only nine months after Hitler asked Speer to design it in early 1938. The structure's Marble Gallery alone was twice as long as the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles and measured 480 feet in length. The complete collection of rooms making up the approach to Hitler's reception gallery was 725 feet long, while Hitler's private office was 400 square metres.
(images via GermanArchitecture)
The incredibly long, richly decorated corridor was designed to intimidate foreign dignitaries and politicians when they came to see Hitler. Speer was told that the cost was immaterial and 4000 men worked in round the clock shifts, with the final cost of the building estimated at ninety million reichsmarks, the equivalent of over one billion dollars in modern currency.
Beneath the new Reich Chancellery was the bunker where Hitler spent the last weeks of the war and where he committed suicide in April 1945.The Chancellery was severely damaged in the Battle of Berlin in 1945 and then demolished by the Soviet occupation forces, who used some of the red marble from Hitler's palace to complete the Red Army war memorial in Berlin's Treptower Park:
The largest office building in the world (1936)
Also in Berlin, Herman Goring's Reich Air Ministry was the largest office building in the world when it was completed in August 1936. It has been described as being "in the typical style of National Socialist intimidation architecture", with a floor area of 112,000 square metres, 2,800 rooms, 7 km of corridors, over 4,000 windows and 17 stairways.
The huge complex was the headquarters of the Luftwaffe and Germany's civil aviation bureaucracy. Fifty quarries were used as sources for stone used in the building's construction, which took only eighteen months, the vast army of workers employed in multiple shifts, seven days a week.
The Air Ministry was one of the few major buildings in Berlin to survive relatively unscathed during the Allied bomber offensive and the Soviet assault at the end of the war. During the Cold War, the building was used by the East German government and today is home to the German Finance Ministry. Witness how Nazi ornamentation co-exists side-by-side with socialist murals inside this cavernous building:
The Zeppelinfield Arena - big enough to launch a fleet of airships
Allied bombing took a huge toll on German cities and Berlin suffered greatly in the Soviet assault in the spring of 1945. Some buildings however survived intact or are still visible as ruins. Some of the better known structures are in Nuremberg, site of the huge Nazi rallies throughout the thirties. The Zeppelinfield Arena was one of Speer's first projects for the party in 1934 and was based on the Pergamon Altar, an ancient Greek structure, which has featured in lists of wonders of the world. Used for the enormous Nazi rallies and party ceremonies, the arena was built on a huge scale and could hold 240,000 people.
Speer also created the arena's famous balcony from which Hitler gave many of his speeches to the party faithful. Despite its ancient Greek influence, the structure is essentially stripped classicism, with no decoration and only the very basic monumental elements.
And in conjunction with the arena, Speer also helped organize the rallies and developed the idea of pointing 1000 searchlights directly into the sky, creating what was known as the Cathedral of Light, the upright beams almost mimicking the columns featured so frequently in Nazi architecture.
Nuremburg was also home to the Congress Hall or Kongresshalle, which although it was never completed, is the largest preserved monumental building from the Nazi period. It was designed by Ludwig and Franz Ruff and was to be a party congress centre with 50,000 seats. Begun in 1935, the exterior bears some resemblance to the Roman Colosseum.
(images via 1, 2)
Nazi Worker's Paradise: Seaside Resort and Spa
One of the biggest Nazi structures which still survives is the Prora resort and spa on the Baltic Island of Rugen, built between 1936 and 1939 (work ceased at the outbreak of war). A series of five seaside resorts were planned, to provide vacations for the average German worker, but the Rugen location was the only one that was actually started (more info):
Like most of the other Nazi era projects, the scale was massive, involving some 9000 workers and every major construction company in Germany. The plan was to construct two complexes with four blocks of ten housing units in each one. There would be rooms for 20,000 people, each room with its own sea view and the resort would have extended for over five kilometers along the beach.
There would also be buildings for administration, workers accommodation, large festival squares, assembly halls, huge swimming pools, restaurants, theatres, sports arenas, a large quay for mooring cruise ships, as well as a train station and all the infrastructure and utilities needed for such a massive undertaking. It never fulfilled its intended purpose and housed refugees from Hamburg and other cities towards the end of the war, as well as being utilized for military personnel and as a hospital.
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Prora was briefly used by the Soviet army after the war, then by the East German military until the early nineties. The remains of the Prora complex are the largest Third Reich era building still in existence and debate continues as to whether the site should be preserved.
Exporting totalitarian architecture to the rest of the world
And finally, showcasing Nazi architecture was not limited to Germany. When the International Exposition Dedicated to Art and Technology in Modern Life was held in 1937 in Paris, the two most prominent pavilions were those belonging to Germany and the Soviet Union, which were located directly across from each other. With a height of 500 feet, the Nazi pavilion designed by Albert Speer, was topped with a tower displaying a gigantic swastika and eagle, symbols of National Socialism.
(images via 1, 2, 3)
Like the Zeppelinfield in Nuremburg, at night Speer used floodlights to illuminate the structure. The pavilion's purpose was to showcase German pride and the strength of Nazi Germany as a bulwark against Communism, symbolized by the Soviet pavilion directly opposite.
Article by Simon Rose and Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.
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