Ihne Tower Staircase, Academy of Arts

by Leslie Hossack

In 1937 Hitler commandeered the Berlin Academy for his architect Albert Speer.

Ihne Tower Staircase, Academy of Arts, Berlin 2010

© Leslie Hossack

The Academy of Arts building created by Ernst von Ihne in 1906 is linked to National Socialist architecture more by anecdote than by design. In 1937, Hitler commandeered the Academy for his architect, Albert Speer, whom he had named Inspector General of Buildings for the Renovation of the Federal Capital. It was here on Pariser Platz, in the skylight rooms of the old Academy building, that Speer built his 30-foot model of Germania.

Hitler often visited to inspect the model and to discuss his monumental plans for the rebuilding of Berlin. Speer put forth his “Theory of Ruin Value” which proposed building structures in such a way that they would resemble Roman models, even in a state of decay after 1000 years. Hitler subsequently ordered that all the important buildings of his Reich must be constructed according to this law of ruins.

During WW II, the Academy building was badly damaged and later it was completely demolished, except for the Ihne Tower staircase shown in this photograph and the original skylight rooms. Located near the Brandenburg Gate, these remains formed part of the death strip along the Berlin Wall from 1961 to 1989. At one time, the East German government built a detention cell in the structure to imprison people who had been caught too close to the border.

After German reunification, the new Academy of Arts complex eventually opened in 2005. It is a stunning concrete and glass structure built around the historic remnants of the original skylight rooms and staircase.

Architect:  Ernst von Ihne                                                              Date: 1904-1906

Architects:  Behnisch & Partner with Werner Durth                 Date: 1994-2005

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