Monday, June 4, 2012

Bullshit Building 4: Welthauptstadt Germania

Adolf Hitler was never the man who think small. Arguably, he always think with delusion of grandeur. So, it is obvious he had some plan to build some bullshit buildings.

The Beginning
We all know that Hitler was a failed artist. Only history aficionado know that he was also a failed architect. When he applied for the last time to the University of Vienna to become an art student, the university reject him and argued that his talent is actually on architecture, not art. Reading this argument, his mind flew back to the days when he visited Vienna art museum to find inspiration. It was not the painting there who captivated him, it was the building itself, thus he agreed with the university assessment. There was one problem ... he slacked off during his high school, and never got any "Abitur" (A high school certificate.) He only passed high school, not graduated from it. To enroll in architecture faculty, you have to have an Abitur. Thus he cursed his own laziness ...

Fast forward 30 years later. He managed to become "Der Führer," the highest undisputed leader of Germany. He had so many dreams, most of them were twisted. It was the time to realize them. 

He saw himself in a young architect named Albert Speer, and made him the official architect of the Reich. Speer himself was deeply impressed by the charismatic mustached dictator, and happily complied.

Hitler's vision was, Berlin would be the "World's capital" or "Welthauptstadt" in German. It was supposed to be renamed into "Germania" too.  It was Speer who designed this new capital, with Hitler's close supervision. With megalomaniac like Hitler, you could expect an impressive design, even among other bullshit buildings! Let's see what kind of city that Hitler approved.

The Design
Welthauptstadt Germania
First, he planned to relocate the Berlin's main axis. This new axis will be free from any traffic. This new axis would be the 5 km (3 mile) long boulevard, whose sole purpose were to become a parade ground! All traffic would be diverted to the underground highway below the parade ground.

That was only the beginning. See the picture on the right? That is the picture of the miniature of the envisioned Welthauptstadt Germania.

See the triumphal arch in the middle? That arch would be larger than the famous Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Far larger! This Arch would be 170 meter (550 feet) wide, 28 meter (92 feet) deep, and 119 meter (392 feet) tall. Compare that to the 45 meter (148 feet) wide, 22 meter (72 feet) deep, and 50 meter (164 feet) tall Arc de Triomphe in Paris. That means, the whole Arc de Triomphe is small enough to be put in the tunnel of Hitler's arch.

See the dome on the upper part of the picture? That would be the Volkshalle (People's Hall.), the building that would become the largest dome on earth, designed by Hitler personally. The dome would rest on a 315 x 315 m² (1033 x 1033 ft²) granite podium. The dome itself will have 250 meter (820 feet) diameter. It would be 16x times larger than the St Peter's Basilica in Vatican.

Maybe you could hardly imagined how big the Volkshalle only by reading those number. Let's put it this way, the dome was so enormous that the engineers were worried that it would have its own climate. Yes, you read it correctly, they were afraid that cloud could be formed inside the dome, there could be indoor rains, etc. Told you der Führer never thought small ...

Oh yeah, According to Speer, Hitler also planned to make the dome a holy place, where National-Socialist from all place could gather and pay him respect. Wow, he was not thinking only thinking physically but also spiritually! That is one serious holy shit!

Other than the Triumphal Arch and the Volkshalle,  this new city would include many other enormous buildings: not one, but two colossal train stations, the 3rd Chancellery, and other spectacular buildings. Typical for a megalomaniac.

There is one problem though, and that is not even counting the 2nd world war ...

The Problem
 All buildings envisioned by der Führer were massive. They were made from concrete. That made them very heavy. The problem is, Berlin is basically build on top of a swampland. Such enormous buildings would slowly sunk by their own weight. 

Hitler was enraged when he heard this fact. Hey, he was never a technical man. How could the nature disagree with his plan? How could these geeks said that this is a batshit insane plan? The engineers managed to get permission to test their hypothesis. In 1941, they build some massive concrete cylinder, 18 meter (59 feet) high, and 12.650 tonnes heavy. If the the cylinder sunk only 6cm (2 and a quarter inch) in 3 years, then the soil is feasible for such project. It sunk 18 cm. Hitler's reaction to this finding was typical. He gave the engineer the finger, and I think he ranted that the will of the people will overcome this problem. 

The End
We all know how this end. Soviet army conquered Berlin, the Allies swooped the Rhine, and Hitler shot himself in his bunker. This project was never realized, other than the building of some underground road, under the envisioned new axis.

Hitler was regarded as a warmonger by modern people. Not entirely true. According to his personal best friend, August Kubizek, Hitler complained that the war wasted his energy. He made this complain shortly after his victory in Paris. He was at heart an architect. Unfortunately an unrealistic one. Fortunately for everyone, including for him, he never managed to finish this project. Just imagined what could happen if he insisted on building those gargantuan buildings, then all of them slowly sinking. We could see the emulations of what would happen to "Germania" by the example of the leaning tower of Pisa. But this time it could happen on a city ... sorry, on a WELTHAUPTSTADT scale. Imagine how that would turn him into a laughingstock of the world. That was a potential colossal bullshit.

Previous bullshit building: New South China Mall
Next Bullshit Building: Yamoussoukro Basilica

Picture Source: Deutschland Bundesarchiv

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