The Akademie der Künste plays host to a wide-ranging inquiry into building and planning under the Nazis.
When Adolf Hitler’s favourite architect, Albert Speer, first presented his megalomaniac model of the new world capital Germania to the Nazi leader, it was in the galleries of the Akademie der Künste on Pariser Platz. Now the same building is the location for the exhibition POWER SPACE VIOLENCE. Planning and Building under National Socialism.
It’s a heated discussion around what to do with the Nazi constructions, but the point for me is that we should be finding them problematic.
That problematic link is one of the main reasons why the building was chosen for the exhibition, according to the head curator, Benedikt Goebel. But, as Goebel explains, the exhibition seeks not to dwell on the “one National Socialist architect that everyone knows” but to emphasise the “millions of slave labourers from all over Europe” held in concentration camps.
“It’s rarely been documented,” he continues, “but by the end of World War II, eight million people were forced to work in Germany for the military and building industry.”
The construction industry – a key component of the Nazis’ domination strategy – has long been severely under-researched. Preparation for the exhibition started in 2017, as part of a research project initiated by the Federal Ministry for Housing, Urban Development and Building. A team of over 20 researchers and historians looked into both Germany and Nazi-occupied countries across Europe.
This new exhibition, which focuses on the years of National Socialist rule from 1933 to 1945, aims to shed light on the racist practices of figures involved in building and planning. Its final room contains newly researched biographies of some 150 notable engineers and architects.
“In Berlin, there are not many Nazi buildings that survived,” says Goebel. “There’s Tempelhof Airport; the Olympic Stadium; the Foreign Office, which was formerly the Reichsbank; and Hermann Göring’s Air Ministry, which today houses the German Finance Ministry.” The controversies surrounding the use of these buildings is one that should be embraced, he argues.
“They’re like thorns in the flesh. It’s a heated discussion around what to do with the Nazi constructions, but the point for me is that we should be finding them problematic. And by working through these problems can we find a way to live with them.”
- POWER SPACE VIOLENCE. Planning and Building under National Socialism, April 19-July 16, Akademie der Künste, Mitte, details.