Ihne Tower Staircase, Academy of Arts

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

Victory Column, Grosser Stern

In 1938 Hitler had Albert Speer move Berlin’s Victory Column to Grosser Stern.

Victory Column, Grosser Stern, Berlin 2010

© Leslie Hossack

The Victory Column was originally located in front of the Reichstag, the home of the German Parliament. In 1938, in line with Hitler’s plans to redesign Berlin as a world capital called Germania, he had his architect Albert Speer move the Victory Column to Grosser Stern (Great Star). At the same time, Hitler added a fourth section to the column, making it almost 67 metres high. It is topped by a sculpture of Victoria, nicknamed Goldelse by Berliners.

Speer redesigned Grosser Stern, a huge traffic circle situated in the centre of the Tiergarten, and widened the east-west axis road running between it and the Brandenburg Gate. He also designed four classical pavilions around the circle; these provide access to pedestrian tunnels running under the roadway to the Victory Column in the centre of the Great Star. These pavilions and tunnels still exist today.

To the east and west of the Victory Column, more than 700 light standards designed by Speer were installed along the ceremonial avenue now called Strasse des 17. Juni. Near the end of WW II, the lampposts between the Brandenburg Gate and the western end of the Tiergarten were removed in order to use the road as a runway for German planes. Thus only about half of the original light standards remain in place today.

As can be seen in this photograph, the Victory Column is once again undergoing renovations. This iconic landmark is a remarkable example of urban change and continuity in the historic city of Berlin.

Original Architect:  Heinrich Strack                                    Date: 1873

Relocation Architect:  Albert Speer                                      Date: 1938-1939

Central Hall, Tempelhof Airport

Tempelhof Berlin used to be one of the world’s largest and busiest airports.

Central Hall, Tempelhof Airport, Berlin 2010

© Leslie Hossack

Tempelhof Airport is a registered historic monument. The site was originally Knights Templar land in medieval Berlin, and this is the origin of the name Tempelhof. In 1909, Armand Zipfel made the first flight demonstration at Tempelhof, followed by Orville Wright that same year.

In 1923, Tempelhof was officially designated an airport. As part of Albert Speer’s plan for the reconstruction of Berlin, Ernst Sagebiel was ordered to replace the old terminal with a new building in 1934. Designed in monumental Nazi style, Sagebiel’s main entrance doors open into a four-story high Hall of Honour. From there, stairs lead down into the central hall shown in this photograph. Here the walls are divided by rectangular columns and high windows, and from galleries suspended on either side, visitors watched passenger operations.

At one time Tempelhof was the central airport for the city and the largest building in Berlin. During WW II, several basement rooms under the administrative building were finished as air-raid shelters for Lufthansa and airport employees, and for people from the neighborhood. Damaged during the war, the airport complex underwent additional changes from 1959 to 1962.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification, the Allied occupation of Berlin came to an end. In July 1994, the British, French and American forces were deactivated in a ceremony on the Four Ring Parade Field at Tempelhof, and the Western Allies returned the city of Berlin to the German government.

Architect: Ernst Sagebiel          Date: 1935-1941

Entrance Plaza, Tempelhof Airport

Tempelhof Berlin was once described as “the mother of all airports.”

Entrance Plaza, Tempelhof Airport, Berlin 2010

© Leslie Hossack

Tempelhof Airport was described by the renowned British architect Sir Norman Foster as “the mother of all airports.”

Built by the Nazis, Tempelhof was taken by the Soviets during the Battle of Berlin at the end of WW II. Shortly thereafter, the airport was turned over to the United States as part of the American occupation of Berlin.

In 1937, Hitler had appointed his favourite architect, Albert Speer, to the position of “General Building Inspector for the Redesign of the Reich Capital.” Tempelhof was built in line with Speer’s grandiose plans to expand Berlin into a global capital called Germania.

Nazi administration buildings such as Tempelhof Airport were built in a monumental style that reduced design to its essentials. This approach is distinguished by smooth unadorned surfaces that appear severe and two-dimensional. The National Socialist style is often characterized by a reinforced concrete frame that is clad in natural stone; façades are flat and symmetrical, and window frames are rectangular with sharp edges.

Tempelhof Airport is a typical example, with its identical rows of windows. The large entrance plaza seen in this photograph is framed by three-story wing structures on either side of the massive five-story reception building with its 21 entrance doors. A 45-metre-high Reich eagle sat on the roof of the main building until 1962; today, only its head is left on display in front of the plaza.

Architect: Ernst Sagebiel          Date: 1935-1941

East Gate, 1936 Olympic Stadium

75 years ago, in August 1936, the XI Games took place in the Berlin Olympic Stadium.

East Gate, 1936 Olympic Stadium, Berlin 2010

© Leslie Hossack

The East Gate of the stadium, also known as the Olympic Gate, is made up of the Bavarian Tower and the Prussian Tower; together they support the Olympic Rings. Although modernized in 2000-2004, the stadium as seen in this photograph looks much as it did for the XI Olympic Games.

In 1933, Hitler personally intervened in the design of the stadium; he had his architect Albert Speer modify its outward appearance to keep it more in line with the Colosseum in Rome. The Berlin stadium, made of reinforced concrete, was covered with a veneer of limestone at Speer’s suggestion. There are 136 columns supporting the two-story arcade around the outside of the oval arena that held 100,000 spectators.

Architecture in The Third Reich was used to express the power of the state, and massive buildings were designed to symbolize Germany’s international standing. Hitler said he wanted to see eternal works built in Berlin, “comparable only to Ancient Egypt, Babylon and Rome.” The Nazis used the Olympics as a showcase for the National Socialist dictatorship; however, these games are now often referred to as the Propaganda Games. At the same time as Hitler was opening the games on August 1st, 1936, forced labour was being used only 35 km away to build Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.

After WW II, the British occupied the Olympic site until 1994. Following the recent renovations, the stadium hosted the 2006 FIFA World Cup and it is now home to Hertha BSC, Berlin’s soccer club.

Architect: Werner March               Date: 1936

Conversion Architects: GMP        Date: 2000-2004