Albert Speer  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, commonly known as Albert Speer 19 March 1905 - 1 September 1981), was an architect, author and one the top five highest-ranking Nazi German government officials (Himmler, Goebbels, Goring, Bormann and Speer), sometimes called "the first architect of the Third Reich".

First architect of the Reich

In 1934, Speer became the Party's chief architect. One of his first commissions after promotion was perhaps the most familiar of his designs: the Zeppelintribüne, the Nuremberg parade grounds seen in Leni Riefenstahl's propaganda masterpiece, Triumph of the Will. In his autobiography, Speer claimed that, upon seeing the original design, he made a derogatory remark to the effect that the parade ground would resemble a "rifle club" meet. He was then challenged to create a new design.

The grounds were based on ancient Doric architecture of the Pergamon Altar in Anatolia, but magnified to an enormous scale, capable of holding two hundred and forty thousand people. At the 1934 Party rally on the parade grounds, Speer surrounded the site with one hundred and thirty anti-aircraft searchlights. This created the effect of a "Cathedral of Light", (which referenced columns) or, as it was called by British Ambassador Sir Neville Henderson, a "cathedral of ice". Speer later described this as his greatest work. In 1935 Speer started a close cooperation with the German-French sculptor Arno Breker. They were friends over decades until the death of Speer.

Nuremberg was also to be the site of many more official Nazi buildings, most of which were never built; for example, the German Stadium would have held another four hundred thousand spectators as the site of the Aryan Games, a proposed replacement for the Olympic Games. While planning these buildings, Speer invented the theory of "ruin value." According to this theory, enthusiastically supported by Hitler, all new buildings would be constructed in such a way that they would leave aesthetically pleasing ruins thousands of years in the future. Such ruins would be a testament to the greatness of the Third Reich, just as ancient Greek or Roman ruins were symbols of the greatness of their civilizations. In practice, this theory manifested itself in his marked preference for monumental stone construction, rather than the use of steel frames and ferroconcrete.

In 1937 Speer designed the German Pavilion for the 1937 international exposition in Paris. Speer's work was located directly across from the Soviet Pavilion and was designed to represent a massive defence against the onslaught of Communism. Both pavilions were awarded gold medals for their designs.

Speer was also directed to make plans to rebuild Berlin, which was to become the capital of a "Greater Germany"—Welthauptstadt Germania. The first step in these plans was the Olympic Stadium for the 1936 Summer Olympics, designed by Werner March. Speer also designed the new Reich Chancellery, which included a vast hall designed to be twice as long as the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. Hitler wanted him to build a third, even larger Chancellery, although it was never begun. The second Chancellery was damaged by the Battle of Berlin in 1945 and was eventually demolished by the Soviet occupiers after the war.

Almost none of the other buildings planned for Berlin were ever built. Berlin was to be reorganised along a central three-mile- (five km) long avenue. At the north end, Speer planned to build the Volkshalle—an enormous domed building, based on St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The dome of the building would have been impractically large; it would be over Template:Convert high and Template:Convert in diameter, 17 times larger than the dome of St. Peter's. At the southern end of the avenue would be an arch based on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but again, much larger; it would be almost Template:Convert high, and the Arc de Triomphe would have been able to fit inside its opening. The outbreak of World War II in 1939 led to the abandonment of these plans.

Part of the land for the boulevard was to be found by building two major railway stations, one just north and one just south of the boulevard. This would free up many of the tracks in between. However, according to Speer in The Spandau Diaries, 80,000 buildings would have to be destroyed to complete his plans.

While the north-south axis was not completed, an east-west axis, focused upon the Brandenburg Gate was completed and remains in Berlin today. While none of the buildings designed by Speer during the Nazi era still stand in Berlin, some lampposts remain.

It has been alleged that Speer was responsible for the forced evictions of Jews from their houses to make room for his grand plans, and for re-housing only Aryans affected by this work. These allegations are, however, disputed. He was also listed as being present at the 1943 Posen Conference, a charge Speer later contested by saying that he had in fact left early.

Speer did have an architectural rival: Hermann Giesler, whom Hitler also favoured. There were frequent clashes between the two in regard to architectural matters and in closeness to Hitler.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Albert Speer" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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