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Monumentality and Modernity in Hitler’s Berlin

The North-South Axis of the Greater Berlin Plan


Hsiu-Ling Kuo

The contentious relationship between modernism and totalitarianism is a key element in the architectural history of the twentieth century. Post-war historiography refused to admit any overlap between the high modernism of the 1920s and the architecture of National Socialism, as it contradicted the definition of modernism as the essential architectural expression of liberal democracy. However, National Socialist architectural history cannot be fully explored without the broader historical context of modernity. Similarly, a true understanding of modernism in architecture must acknowledge its authoritarian aspects.
This book clarifies the architectural discourse in which the Greater Berlin Project of the Third Reich was produced. The association of monumentality with National Socialist architecture in the 1930s created a polarization between the classical tradition and radical modernism that provoked vigorous and acrimonious debate that lasted into the 1980s. In the attempt to reconcile the paradoxical and competing aspirations for monumentality and historicity on one hand, and for technological advance on the other, the planning of Berlin is shown to reflect the wider paradoxes of National Socialist ideology.


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Chapter 6 Architecture and the Mass Psychology of Monumentality


Chapter 6 Architecture and the Mass Psychology of Monumentality The projects in the North–South axis of the Greater Berlin Plan appeared monotonous in style and in layout. This was the result of Albert Speer and the GBI’s meticulous supervision and, more importantly, of the desire to create a centrally controlled and highly disciplined society after the ‘chaotic’ and ‘degenerate’ Weimar period. National Socialism saw it as having great political potential to combat the loose social order and the disruptive nature of a society without a social hierarchy in the Weimar years. The GBI pro- duced a strict grid city plan for the capital in contrast to the less disciplined city planning policy of the Weimar Republic. Helmut Weihsmann suggests that National Socialist designs for buildings and monuments such as towers, columns and obelisks were installed on a massive scale as ‘city crowns’. These monuments were designed to stand out from the organic cityscape and serve as symbols of spiritual leadership, so that the neue Geist, representing ‘the new spirit’ of National Socialism, would be visible everywhere in the territory of the Reich. Monumental architecture – in the shape of ‘build- ings of faith’ – helped to channel the public into a totalitarian and unified system of order. German cities and landscapes would in turn be covered with prototypes embodying the National Socialist party ideology. Its ethos and the sense of community would also be accommodated in its architecture. Städte und Landschaften Deutschlands mit Hilfe von ‘Bauten des Glaubens’ nach einem...

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