Our journey in the world that never was, is today taking us to Berlin. The German capital is today a modern city, its architecture reflects all of the recent evolution phases that Germany has gone through, in particular the German Empire, the Nazi government, the post-War divide and the national unification in the 1990s. The city is full of scars and marks of a painful past, aswell as contemporary structures that only look forward to the future.
What you might not know, is that among Brandeburg Gate‘s 18th century looks and the Berliner Dom we could have an ambitious 20th century project that never saw the light of day. It is no mistery that both the Fascist government and the Nazis were modeling their culture and their surroundings with those of the Roman Empire and those who imitated it afterwards, and apparently Hitler’s tour of Paris convinced him that Berlin should have had its own Arc of Triumph. in the same way the Champs Elysée connect the Arc to the Louvre, Berlin’s Arc was to be opposed to the greatest dome ever: the Volkshalle (literally, “People’s Hall“), a building which was entirely based on Rome’s Pantheon.
It was going to be a statement to the world, the self-proclamation of Berlin as the capital of the world: Welthauptstadt Germania. Had this project been brought to completion, would it have a place in our present? Or was it, being the hypothetical symbol of Nazi power, the probable target of destruction for the Allies at the end of World War II?
Yes, war stopped the plans for this big big plan, but something else opposed the realisation of such project: Berlin itself. What is today visible in Berlin and known as the Schwerbelastungskörper (literally “heavy load-bearing body“) was the giant cement cylinder built to study the impact of Berlin’s own Arc of Triumph on its own ground, which turned out to be so sandy that it sank three times more than it was allowed to, thus halting any further plan of construction. Hitler’s Volkshalle, also called Große Halle or Ruhmeshalle had architectural problem of its own: contemporary architects deem the project as an impossible, badly proportioned building.
All of these project have then faced multiple problems since their realisation: concrete architectural problems, plans being halted by war and eventually (if constructed), heavy bombings from the Allies in the aftermath of Germany’s defeats. It looks like this is all a Utopian world that is destined not to come to life. Do we miss it? Probably not. The last thing we need is a reminder of the horrors of the period, the perpetrated hatred, the folly of an obsessed dictator.