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Sunday, February 6, 2011

The "Ruin Value" in Nazi Architecture

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler
Albert Speer (1905-1981) was Adolf Hitler's chief architect. Hitler commissioned him to design multiple structures for him including the New Reich Chancellery in 1939 and the Zeppelinfeld Stadium in Nuremberg where the Nazi party rallies were held from 1933-1938. Today little remains of Speer's architectural works, other than plans, photographs and theory. Speer pioneered the idea of the "Ruin Value", in German, die Ruinenwert. This was the concept that a building should be designed so that if it eventually collapsed it would leave behind aesthetically pleasing ruins which would look and last best left to fall to ruin on its own. Speer coined the idea in 1936 as Die Ruinenwerttheorie, The Theory of Ruin Value. This idea was supported by Adolf Hitler who planned for such ruins to be a reflection of the greatness of the the Third Reich, just as ancient Greek and Roman ruins reflect their great civilisations. Interestingly, Speer sold the idea to Hitler by drawing a sketch of the Haupttribune, the Nazi Party Rally Grounds as an ivy-covered ruin. As Speer later wrote in his memoirs,
"Ultimately, all that remained to remind men of great epochs of history was their monumental architecture."

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