‘The Regime needed a past more than it needed a future, memory more than aspiration’ – Peter Blundell Jones
The above quote sums up Nationalist Socialist architecture perfectly. Nationalist Socialist Germany without a doubt understood and exploited a parallel between society and architecture further than any government. The Fuhrer rebuilt and stabilised the German economy after the First World War. He wanted the world and the German populace to remember his deeds. In the hands of Adolf Hitler, monumental architecture became a powerful weapon. Illustrating the Reich’s supremacy and total domination over the nation.
Gothic, being a collective nonconformity with the whole community contributing to the unique style, could not be used to an advantage of Hitler. He wanted to unite the populace, which allowed absolutely a minimum to no space for personal representation. It was surprising when the regime which performed in harmony finally seized control over the Reichstag, forcing its delegates to become political envoys rather than individuals, ‘One Party, One Nation, One Leader’.
But what was a particular style the regime used to fulfill their goal? Let’s start with a word ‘monument’, it suggests a tribute. A shrine to a specific and dedicated style of the past. There is a certainty that the creation will impress and a strong link will be made. The monumentality is appreciated because it is linked to the past. A past that demands admiration and astonishes. Looking at Neo-Classicism as a major inspiration, the monumental Nationalist Socialist Berlin was born. While the regime developed, it was vital to secure a belief, morality and most importantly a past. All of that was achieved through the then latest stone constructions which held a certain impression of longevity. Looking like they have stood there and will remain standing for ages to come.
The hierarchy of the buildings schemed by Speer and Hitler was so excessive that no one possibly could mistake it for anything rather than the showcase of power. A good example of this is New Berlin Chancellery. An illusion the Chancellery created for Hitler worked in his favour. Much of the New Chancellery was an impressive room and a broad hallway. A symmetrical marble facade for the hallway was designed by Albert Speer to have a monumental characteristic. It was further split into three, the main part being centred by the two wings, each with its own entrance strikingly defined further by columns. The massing of the facade suggested the Chancellery housed a big presence. It was both intimidating and impressive, just how Hitler wanted it to be. For instance, when the president of Czechoslovakia, arrived to Germany to negotiate about the safety of his country, he collapsed in the halls of the Chancellery due to a sheer pressure and intimidation of the building.
Another example is Luitpoldarena, where the Nuremberg Rallies were taking place. The surpassingly detailed evidence is ‘Triumph of the Will’ motion picture by Leni Riefenstahl. Speer’s framework combined with Riefenstahl’s filming became commanding and absolute. Political undertones which were portrayed in a single room, hence suggesting an undivided populace. The propaganda film was a grand success, through the use of monumental architecture and a right setting it was able to accomplish what Hitler wanted: unity within his party, order among the masses and fear to his enemies.
Speer’s and Hitler’s monumentality definitely has traditionally specific and distinctively Nationalist Socialist components, like its resemblance of Roman and Greek idioms, its express celebration of state power, and its notably neurotic , manic presumption. The emotive weaponisation of monumental design by the Third Reich is an excessive instance of a structural ideal that’s as antediluvian as empires.
Words Elizabeth Galiyeva