To conclude my trilogy of Albert Speer posts, i have decided to write this blog posting on what may be the only piece of Germania that remains to this day, which, ironically, was only meant to be temporary. This structure is called the Schwerbelastungskörper. This basically means heavy load-bearing body. It also came to be knicknamed “the mushroom.” What this structure is, essentially, is just a heavy piece of concrete, designed to test the stability of the soil of Berlin. The fact that this lone structure is composed of concrete is another irony, as it is all the exists of Germania. Considering that the main buildings of Germania were going to be constructed from heavy granite blocks, and looking at how much this Schwerbelastungskörper sunk, it seems that without a great deal of foundation planning, compacting, and further testing, Germania, as it was imagined and designed would not have been feasible, largely due to this single factor. The plan, at the time, was just to bury the structure. Currently, this block is a historical monument, largely due to the fact that it could not be safely blown up. Not exactly what Hitler had envisioned.
I’ve recently read about a stadium that Albert Speer was in the process of building, but never finished, due to the outbreak of the Second World War, which was to be called the Deutsches Stadion. It was being built in Nuremburg, as the city was used every year for the growing Nazi Party Rallies. This stadium caught my attention as it was being built to have a capacity of some 400,000 people. Currently, the largest stadium in the world only holds 150,000 people (this being the Rungrado May Day Stadium in North Korea.) There are currently 67 countries whose entire populations could have sat in this stadium. While planning out this monstrosity, Speer grew concerned that people at the top of the bleachers would not be able to see down to the bottom. Although all that currently exists of the Deutsches Stadion is a lake, which is actually the foundation of what was to be the stadium, there are photographs and remnants that can give some idea of what this thing would have looked like. To test his design Speer created a full-sized model of one section of the stadium on the side of a mountain! Apparently, the design would not have been problematic in terms of visibility. What I am wondering from you all is what other problems could this design have. Certainly, there would be issues with accommodating 400,000 people, especially if many of them were from another city, and transportation to and from the stadium would be an issue. What about water and plumbing, or electricity? Feeding this many people in one place, and dealing with the garbage aftermath would also be a problem. What do you think?
For my research project, I’ve decided to work on Albert Speer’s planned global capital city, which he later dubbed Welthauptstadt Germania, which was to be situated in the area of Berlin. The idea was that if the Nazi’s had won the war, this new city on Berlin would have served as the world capital, but, as it turned out, they did not win and very little of the proposed city was ever realized. I found this topic interesting as it was supposed to be this great super-city, though it would have been heavily modeled after Roman architecture, not unlike Washington DC. Unlike the architecture of Washington, the structures of Welthauptstadt Germania would have completely dwarfed their inspirations. Just as an example of how huge these structures would have been, one of these proposed buildings, called the Große Halle, would have been a domed structure similar to the Pantheon, but would have been capable of being occupied by as many as 180,000 people.
Although this is just a little bit about the city itself, I’ve found Speer, the man behind the city, to be quite an interesting figure, despite his involvement in the Nazi war effort. One of Speer’s first state buildings was the Zeppelinfeld, which was featured in Leni Riefenstahl’s iconic propaganda film “Triumph des Willens,” or Triumph of the Will. In the construction of the Zeppelinfeld, Speer, with Hitler’s approval, did not use any modern ”anonymous” materials such as steel girders or ferroconcrete, as these materials would not have created aesthetically appealing ruins, like those of the Roman Empire. The reason for this was because Hitler saw himself in the same light as a Roman Emperor and wanted his time of rule to be emblazoned right onto the city, for centuries to come. The idea for using these materials came about because even after thousands of years, had they existed, their ruins would still display the majesty of the time. This was called Speer’s Theory of Ruin Value. I find this concept interesting, and a classic sign of a cult of personality. I have yet to read any of Speer’s autobiographies, (or any biographies for that matter), but when I do, I will most likely further explore this topic for my term paper. Despite the passage of roughly 75 years (a far cry from the imagined 1000’s of years) we can already see some of the decaying ruins of what was to be Welthaupstadt Germania.