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The Architecture of Evil

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The Architecture of Evil

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Speer: Hitler's Architect

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USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. For years, I was sure I had lost it, and cursed the loss, since hardly a word of Speer's views on architecture is preserved on tape, and the BBC, for which I was working, had thrown all the originals away, as it usually does. But the sound man had made me a copy of the uncut Speer, and this was it, more than an hour of him. It seemed a shame not to use it, and so it became the basis of a film about Speer, largely in his own words.

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He was the only fully fledged Nazi I ever met; knowingly, at least. Skinheads with tattoos, and other postmodern wannabes, do not count. But Speer was the real thing, although late in life he made a career from having seen "the Light" through those years of reclusion in Spandau, with the advantage of being the only Nazi who was both manifestly alive and certifiably sane - something that could hardly have been claimed for the reclusive and utterly cuckoo Hess.

He outlived all his colleagues, was highly intelligent and had a missionary zeal to tell the story of his relations with Hitler and the Reich. This he could do only in a series of acts of memory, public penitence and contrition, in one of which I was peripherally involved. Who was Roosevelt's architect? Nobody we can remember. No one cares. Silly question. But there is no doubt who Hitler's architect was: Albert Speer. Almost nothing of his buildings survives, either because they were not built or because they were demolished after One of its eight hours was to be about the relationship between modernism and political power.

Modern art has never had much political power, but modern architecture is a different matter.

Architecture is the only art that moulds the world directly. Of all the arts, it is the supreme expression of politics and ideology. It marshals resources and organises substance in a way that music, painting and literature cannot. It is an art that lives from power.

Nobody in the 20th century grasped this more firmly than Speer's patron and employer, Adolf Hitler. Hitler was a kitsch artist and an aspiring architect. But his aspirations for architecture were infinite.

Of gods and monsters

His vision of the world he wanted to make, to commemorate himself and his ideology, was complete, overwhelming and Pharaonic. He may never have heard of Imhotep, the Egyptian genius of the 3rd millennium BC, who invented the stepped mastaba and was worshipped as a god, but that was, in essence, what he wanted to be. Since he had no architectural training, only a total obsession, he needed someone who would execute his immense fantasies in stone and space, writing the future of German society.

This was a bizarre situation. Europe had little money to build with, yet in Germany, an increasingly victorious crackpot was handing over unlimited piles of cash to an unknown architect to make sandcastles with. He didn't stay unknown for long. Speer, then, was the man to talk to. He was not long out of jail and, in , he did not have long to live - he would die happily, it was rumoured, in bed with his much younger girlfriend in The BBC made deferential approaches, explained what my series was about and, to my surprise, Speer agreed to take part.

Of gods and monsters | Art and design | The Guardian

Later I realised the reason for this. Speer always felt he had been short-changed as an architect. He quite understood the obsessive focus on him as a top Nazi what else could he expect?