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Thread: Speer junior, son of Hitler's architect, plans the new Beijing

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    Arrow Speer junior, son of Hitler's architect, plans the new Beijing

    The House of Speer: Still Rising on the Skyline

    by RICHARD BERNSTEIN



    New York Times/February 27, 2003


    MUNICH — His name is Albert Speer, and his profession is architect and urban planner, and this Albert Speer shrugs with a certain resignation over the inescapable fact that his father had the same name and the same profession. "I can't help it," Mr. Speer said over lunch in Munich, where he was on business trip, speaking of his name and the family heritage. "It is as it is." Mr. Speer's father, about whom many books have been written, was, of course, Hitler's favorite architect, the man who developed the grandiose-totalitarian style of Nazi buildings. The elder Speer died in 1981 after spending 20 years in prison as a Nazi war criminal.

    His son has been getting some attention in Germany lately because he recently submitted a grand design for the future development of China's capital, Beijing, as it prepares to hold the Olympic Games in 2008. The plan submitted by Mr. Speer's Frankfurt-based Company, AS&P, involves a vast North-South axis some 10 miles long that would reach to the Olympic village in the north of the city, connect it to the Forbidden City, former home of the emperors, and finish at an immense new railroad station that would link China's capital with the rest of the country.

    Not surprisingly, the question has been raised in Germany — though apparently not in China — whether something ghoulish from the past was being resurrected in the younger Mr. Speer's Beijing design. Was the son, consciously or not, trying to resurrect the spirit of his father, to build in Beijing what his father had been prevented by Germany's defeat in the war from building in Berlin?

    "His Beijing axis is re-awakening old memories," read a recent article a week ago by Sophie Mühlmann in the German newspaper Die Welt. "Wasn't there a legendary north-south axis planned by the elder Speer for Hitler's new Berlin, which was to be called `world capital Germania?' Is his son trying to copy him, or rather outdo him?"

    Mr. Speer's short answer to that question is: No, he was not copying or outdoing or even thinking much about his father as he conceived his design for the Beijing of the future. But Germany is a country where questions about the past are always being raised. Berlin's recent re-emergence as the capital of a united Germany has been the occasion for repeated, often heated, debate about architecture, marked by concern that nothing be built to suggest the monumentalism of the Nazi era.

    For Mr. Speer, who, despite his name has made a highly successful career elsewhere in Germany and around the world, questions about his axis and that other axis are both inevitable and not very welcome. "We're even bigger here, much bigger, but the two are not comparable," Mr. Speer said, contrasting his plans for Beijing with his father's never-built concept for Berlin. Over the centuries, Mr. Speer said, architects have conceived large, all-encompassing designs, including grand urban axes, and they do not usually become occasions for speculation about the dark nexus of politics and art.

    "This is an idealistic axis," he said of his concept for Beijing. "This is not an axis representing power. It's an axis that looks back to two and a half thousand years of Chinese history." For him there is no escaping the fact that his father was the Hitler intimate who is among the Nazi leaders most studied and written about — a puzzling, complex and morally crippled figure who, though refined and intelligent, served the Third Reich loyally to the end. "I've read the books," Mr. Speer said, mentioning two of them in particular, Gitta Sereny's "Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth" and Joachim Fest's "The Final Verdict." The son, in other words, is interested in his father and his complicated, much studied role, but he is clear that their professional attitudes are entirely unalike.

    The proposed blueprint for Beijing, which, though requested by the Chinese government, has not been formally adopted, is the latest of many big ideas that Mr. Speer has developed over the years. Among his other projects, for example, undertaken in collaboration with the New York architect Peter Eisenman, is a design for the 2012 Olympic Games bid of Leipzig. Before that, he designed Expo 2000 in Hanover, a project that did bear an uncanny parallel to one of his father's, who designed the German Pavilion at the 1937 Paris World's Fair.


    Albert Speer Jr. has been chosen to plan the urban renewal of Beijing for the 2008 Olympics

    The event has aroused much debate as the project presented by the German town planner has a lot in common with his father's nazi Utopias. Speer senior, also called "the devil's architect", was one of Hitler's intimate acquaintances, and was appointed by him to design the scenery of the biggest events in the Reich and come up with plans for the "new" city of Berlin, to become "the universal metropolis Germania".

    But of this great world capital, which was to house ten million and be completed in 1950, only the foundations were ever laid, when the big chancellery of Germania was built in 1936. Speer Jr.'s plan for Beijing has several features in common with the Germania plan, including a 25 km long road connecting Olimpia Park with the Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square. There will be monumental squares, social housing for workers around the city's factories and an immense railway system connecting Beijing with destinations all over China, just like the system Hitler had planned for Germany and the Reich lands.

    Setting aside these likenesses, Speer Jr's project offers a number of responses to urban issues in Beijing. Above all, its big pollution problem is solved by recycling of water or rainwater, use of alternative energy sources and environmentally sustainable factories. The sixty-eight-year-old Speer responds to accusations of having dug up a Nazi town planning project with these words: "It is an unfortunate fact that comparisons with my father are inevitable, but I want to help ferry Beijing into the new millennium. The Berlin project in the '30s was just megalomania".

    http://www.floornature.com/worldaround/articolo.php/art247/1/en



    Architect Sheds Father's Legacy in China

    Shanghai is often described as the biggest building site in the world. Architect Albert Speer, Jr., has risen to the challenge, and he's put an uncomfortable family connection behind him on the way. The last decade has seen over 2 million people relocate to Shanghai as more and more ambitious building projects are realized. Innovations include some 5,000 gleaming new highrises, over 1,000 new streets, three subway lines, a new airport and an entire inner city highway infrastructure, complete with three mammoth bridges over the Huangpu River.

    German planners and architects are among the many international experts flocking to Shanghai to help shape the future of the world's fastest-growing city with diverse urban development initiatives. The Frankfurt-based architectural team AS&P has had an office in China since 1999. In 2001, it won an international competition for the design of the Shanghai International Automobile City, and it has been scooping up regular urban planning contracts ever since. In Shanghai's current climate of architectural experimentation, AS&P practices ecologically friendly, sustainable urban development, and these days, it's an established name in China.


    The Speer legacy


    But what really sets AS&P apart is its historical baggage. Now one of Germany's most successful architecture practices, it's headed by Albert Speer Jr., who has the unfortunate historical stigma of having been born the son of Hitler's favorite architect. Albert Speer Sr. died in 1981, having been sentenced at the Nuremberg trials to 20 years in Berlin's Spandau prison. He was released in 1966, but father and son were never close. In interviews, Speer Jr., is reluctant to talk about his father's legacy, but there have at times been parallels in the scale of the two mens' work. For like his father, Speer Jr. is an architectural success story.

    AS&P scooped the coveted commission to build a new soccer stadium in Munich for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Berlin's Olympic Stadium, scene of the 1936 Olympics and memorably showcased in the infamous Leni Riefenstahl film Olympia, was built by Albert Speer Sr. It's just one example of Speer Jr. following in his father's footsteps. The architect also won the contract to prepare the eastern German city of Leipzig's bid for the 2012 Olympics -- while back in the 1930s, his father began revamping Berlin as the capital of the Nazi's supra-German state by building the Olympic Stadium.


    A different agenda

    In fact, Speer's work couldn't be more different to that of his father. His architectural vision, laid out in his 1992 book The Intelligent City, is of a socially progressive, humane metropolis. In an interview with the architecture magazine Metropolis in 2002, he described his work in China as "knowledge transfer" on sustainable development. "We're trying to network planning, infrastructure, and utilities--to save energy and resources, and preserve the environment," he said. "I'm convinced that in five years they will be able to do it all without us -- they are good learners. My task is to help them along the way."


    "German Town"


    One of AS&P's Chinese projects is the so-called "German Town." Seven satellite towns are currently being built outside Shanghai based on European models. "German Town" will be situated in Anting Town, Jiading District, home to an international automotive center. The project entails the construction of various German-style buildings, and Speer Jr. is more aware than most that it's a concept steeped in perjorative associations.

    "Obviously, we won't be trying to recreate Rothenburg ob der Tauber," he pointed out in an interview with public broadcaster MDR. "We want to build a small, modern town with, for example, tiled roofes. Visually, the streets will be different to what the Chinese are used to, they'll be slighted curved and lined with trees." Rather than Germany's traditional half-timbered style, he says, the town "will have the same sort of atmosphere as a modern residential estate."

    Another plan involves a vast north-south axis running from Beijing's Olympic Village to the city's Forbidden City and finishing at the new train station which links Beijing with the rest of China. Predictably, it's a project that many back in Germany have already compared to Speer Sr.'s "Germania" vision for Berlin. In China, Speer Jr. stresses, his expertise is all that matters. No one here ever asks him about his father. And if they did, he wouldn't likely have much to say.


    http://www.dw-world.de/english/0,3367,1441_A_1175173_1_A,00.html



    HITLER'S DREAM CITY COMES ALIVE IN EAST

    THE SON of a Nazi father - the man designated by his Fuehrer to rebuild Berlin as the greatest city in the world - has the same designs on modern Beijing. Albert Speer jnr, who was born a year after Hitler came to power, is among three contenders for a multi-billion pound contract hailed as the architectural Holy Grail of the new millennium. More than 60 years ago it was his father who dreamed of such glory. Hitler bestowed upon him the honour of rebuilding the Reich capital to become a metropolis like no other. It was to be called Germania and defined by superlatives - bigger, taller, wider, grander - than any other. A failed architect, Hitler was obsessed with the idea of a modern-day Rome for his Third Reich. Like his empire the dream evaporated in blood and ashes and Germania never made it beyond the drawing board and model stage.

    Speer the elder spent 20 years in jail after the Second World War for using slave labour when armaments minister for Hitler. Now his son, his blood racing with the same visions and dreams of architectural glory that drove his father, has come up with a grand design for a 'Super-Beijing' that has many parallels to Germania. There is a plan for a 17-mile-long east-west axis in the city: just as there was for Germania. There are drawings for grand plazas, for workers' houses to ring the factories - just like Germania - and a mammoth railway station to link all of China, as Hitler planned for Germania to link all of the conquered lands of the Reich.

    Speer, 68, has lived in the shadow of his father's greatness and infamy all his life. He knows that to many his father was the Devil's Architect. - to others, the only "good" Nazi. But he insists that his grandiose designs on the ancient heart of Beijing is not a walk down a sinister memory lane. "Great projects demand great buildings," he said. "I am not one for speeches. I stuttered in school. I let my work speak for itself. This is a fantastic opportunity to rebuild a great portion of the city. No architect could pass it up."

    He spent January in Beijing talking over his designs with Chinese authorities and will return there in April for a final decision. Two other concerns - one French, one Chinese - are in with a chance. Speer's designs include shopping plazas, cinemas and an eco-city that seeks to give China its first taste of western eco-culture with recycled rainwater, alternative energy sources and eco-friendly farming.

    The offer of the glittering prize came Speer's way as Chinese authorities renovate the city in preparations for the Olympics in 2008. Beijing is faced with problems that include air pollution, shortages of water resources, traffic jams and rebuilding of dangerous and dilapidated houses, a lack of subways, light railways, expressways and airports. Part of Speer's remit, should his Frankfurt-based firm win, will be to finish the task of rebuilding more than nine million square metres of dangerous and old apartments.

    Speer's architectural partnership has won many commissions in recent years, including a diplomatic quarter in Saudi Arabia, the parliament in Yemen and traffic systems in Nigeria. But the Beijing project would be the jewel in the crown. He insists that the plans for Germania that his father had are not what has driven him in re-drawing the map of Beijing. "This is a modern city built in a modern style," he said. "There are grand buildings to be sure. I know what comparisons people might draw but that doesn't interest me - I am just glad I have got to the age whereby I am not known as Junior anymore. That is an enormous step forward."

    Speer's plans are vast in their scale, covering an area of 100 square km. The railway station alone requires thousands of metric tons of concrete while the grand boulevards and plazas envisaged in the design incorporate windparks and solar panels to reduce the industrial smog that sometimes blankets the city. Speer's partnership employs 125 people. He taught for 15 years at the University of Kaiserlautern before going into private practice which has resulted in many commissions both at home and abroad. He was responsible for the German Pavilion at the 2000 Expo exhibition in Hanover.

    It is ironic that his plans for a super-city have been formulated just as interest is renewed at home in the long-shelved blueprints on Germania. For late last year, in a wood on the Mueritzsee Lake, 60 miles from Berlin, surrounded by a minefield, German amateur historians discovered the only building Hitler ever saw completed for Germania. The 50-metre high apartment building was code-named The White House and was built on an island on a lake at the height of the war. The White House was the prototype of bomb-proof buildings the Fuehrer wanted to construct for the workers of the Reich capital that would rule the world.

    Dietmar Arnold, the chairman of a group called Berlin Underworld which discovers and preserves the Nazi bunkers that riddle the capital, said a cross -check in archives showed that the White House - previously thought to be just another anti-aircraft tower built to shoot down allied planes - was the blueprint for workers' apartment buildings Hitler wanted to construct after the "final victory" that never came. A Germania historian and Third Reich architectural expert Professor Wolfgang Schaeche said: "This was also known as Testwork T and is the only surviving example of the architecture that Hitler would have dominated Germania with." "Hitler envisioned a capital to match his ego," said Detlef Franke, a historian . "The workers' apartments were to be military in style because he couldn't bear to think of his capital being reduced to rubble."

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    Post Re: Speer junior, son of Hitler's architect, plans the new Beijing

    1992 book The Intelligent City, is of a socially progressive, humane metropolis.
    I'll have to find that book. Thank you for posting the articles.
    --------------------------------------------------------
    There is nothing the matter with Americans except their ideals. The real American is all right; it is the ideal American who is all wrong. ~G.K. Chesterton

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    Post Re: Speer junior, son of Hitler's architect, plans the new Beijing

    Well, if the white man, the Europeans will fail, maybe these empire will be the last hope of humanity.

    Atm I must say, everything cultural the Chinese adopt from us will just make them weaker, because we have the worst and most decadent culture of every higher culture, even compared with the late antiquity.

    Interesting to see that he has chosen the same way as his father had. Of course for man like him is not too much place in today "Germany" of the BR-regime.
    Magna Europa est patria nostra
    STOP GATS! STOP LIBERALISM!

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    Albert Speer Junior

    This post is inspired by a tv document I saw today. It's about Albert Speer, and his work in Third Reich.

    He is, like his father, a great example of German aryan race, and skilled architect
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    “Ihmisellä täytyy olla mahdollisuus päästä kosketuksiin sellaisten tuntojen kanssa, joiden tajuaa olevan ikuisia. Sellaisten tunteiden, joita ei voi spekuloida. Jeesus on tuntenut näin tai joku kaveri on tuntenut ihan samalla lailla tuhat vuotta sitten. Saavuttaa sellaisen yhteyden. Kävellessään jossain vuorilla, astuu ne täsmälleen samat askeleet, samat sydämenlyönnit. Se on aika mystinen kokemus. Kaikkihan miettivät, miten toimisi äärimmäisessä uhkatilanteessa tai jos kuolema on väkevästi läsnä. Kysymys on omasta päästä, miten hallita pelkoa. Pelkoa on kolmenlaista. Kuolemanpelkoa, pelkoa haavoittumisesta ja pelkoa siitä, tuleeko paska housuun.”

    Marco Casagrande, City-lehti, nro 15/2004

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