An MIT urban planner aussehen at the alternative vision zum a berlin that was designed to tonnage a thousands years, but never built.

Du schaust: The man in the high castle berlin



Rendering of berlin from “The Man bei the High Castle” über
By Ezra Haber-Glenn, lecturer an the MIT Department of Urban Studies und Planning (DUSP)

When used judiciously, establishing shots are one von the most useful techniques in film and television. As die curtain opens on a new scene, a director ist able to convey a whole range of important information — die when and where des the setting, as well as die overall mood and moment the we room about die enter — all v a einzel short shot. Such is the power des imagery.

The zuerst season von Amazon’s new serial adaptation des Philip K. Dick’s alternative-history thriller, “The Man an the High Castle,” has currently made excellent use des this technique, frequently lowering die viewer right into scenes von Nazi-occupied new York or Japanese-occupied San francisco with shots of key structures or landmarks. We know und love this cities and we automatically recognize these areas — only kommen sie be jarred von the superimposition des the acquainted (Times Square, the gelb Gate Bridge) with new “alt-history” signifiers (swastikas galore; climbing Sun banners; propaganda on the billboards). Bei a similar vein, die show’s haunting credit transaction sequence — one von the best an recent memory — uses both landmarks und maps kommen sie set the stage and orient the viewer. Planners and urban developers would it is in wise kommen sie take note: these brief segments beautiful illustrate the ways history, memory, landscape, politics, mapping, and meaning are interwoven an the methods we “make sense des place.”

Early in the 2nd season, however, this shots take it on in entirely new — and quite horrifying — relevance, especially weil das urban planners who recognize their history. As ns story traces zurück to the corridors des power in the Fatherland, we obtain our first establishing shot des the nazi capital des Berlin, looking ost past die famous Siegessäule (Victory Column), in the direction of the brandenburg Gate.


The column itself is nothing surprising: visitors to berlin today möchte find it there in the Großer Stern (Great Star) rotary, although when it was originally erected in the 1870s it was much closer to the center von town. In 1939, the 59-meter column was relocated kommen sie this spot as the opening salvo an a massive urban planning assault on die historic city led by Hitler’s zuerst Architect, Albert Speer. (In the process, die column was so made 7.5 meters taller through die insertion of additional stein drums; as möchte become obvious, size mattered quite a lot of Hitler und Speer.)

Speer’s plan — developed in close participation with Hitler, that understood die nationalistic power of architecture and urban entwurf — was zu transform Berlin: ns old city was kommen sie be reborn together Welthauptstadt Germania (Germania, world Capital), die seat des the new empire. (The ar titles von the zeigen chose to stick v “Berlin,” presumably to give the audience a clearer real-world referent; or perhaps, in deference to his uneasy truce with Japan in the show, the führen is holding turn off on claiming total world domination zum the moment.)

In die end, though, beyond relocating this one column and constructing a couple of administrative and cultural buildings, virtually none of Speer’s proposed structures were in reality completed before ns demands of winning — and then the reality von losing — the war intervened. (That said, speer unfortunately made great progress on his plans zum destruction von the city — an ext on the below.)

Thus, through this one image — five seconds of film — us begin zu enter die shadowlands bolzen the world that was und the world that might schutz been. Together our eye moves hoch from ns column zu follow die shot, we room treated — or terrified — with a feast des unbuilt architecture. Using the latest software and rendering techniques to visualize ns completion von actual archival plans from die 1930s, ns production mannschaft has masterfully brought zu life a mad planner’s beautiful nightmare: bei “Alt-Berlin” that was designed to belastung a thousand years, however never built. (In Dick’s book ns story no get to Berlin, however he definitely would schutz enjoyed die mind-bending natur of this work: a tv series spun off from a fictional publication showing a realistic computer system simulation of an imagined stadt based on echt sketches made von a tot architect.)


Figure 2: Albert Speer’s model weil das the Prachtallee, spring north; from: Bundesarchiv, video 146III-373 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Spanning the horizon as ns spine des the new imperial funding runs die three-mile lang Prachtallee (Boulevard des Splendors; shown in Figure 2, spring north). At the south, the massive Triumphal Arch, intended to be over 100 meter high, large enough to fit over Paris’s Arc juni Triomphe; to die north, along the Spree River, sits ns heart von the Reich, in immense domed structure to be known as the Volkshalle (People’s Hall). In some versions von the plans, quite than spanning ns Spree, the river itself was kommen sie be relocated — like ns Victory shaft — kommen sie accommodate Speer’s vision.

Although never built, Speer’s monster-piece (indeed, some called it the “Monsterbau,” or monster-building) truly puts the “dominate” in “dome”: spring like ns US Capitol ~ above steroids (or perhaps nazi- Pervitin), that would have been huge enough to fit the Papal Basilica des St. Peter inside it. Hitler planned zu use die massive hall zu gather crowds des up kommen sie 180,000 civilization — what would have been von far the largest internal assembly space bei the world; planners fretted that the respiration from dafür many excited Nazis in a einzel enclosed an are might create its own weather patterns. (The Volkshalle figures prominently in the 2nd season, and the interior was painstakingly recreated weil das the show as well, together discussed bei this article on io9).

In a nice touch, offered that the nur takes place in 1962, a full 15 years after die war, the team updated Speer’s vision slightly: ~ all, time marches ~ above even in the alternative past. Running right through the taste establishing shot, and visible in other scenes as well, a clean and modern monorail whisks world above ns city, favor something out von “Wald Disney Welt’s Morgen-Lande.” (Some might object to die placement here: die tracks virtually graze the Victory Column, upsetting die delicate symmetry of the design; wie necessary, fenster preferred to put transport, infrastructure, und even pedestrians underground and out des view.) other shots depict cranes, busy structure on the ever-expanding horizon, and later an the season we room treated to a pitch weil das the Reich’s plans kommen sie dam und drain the Mediterranean Sea (an idea so found bei the book, based upon a real-world scheme well-known as Atlantropa promoted von the German architect Herman Sörgel). “Make no little plans — they schutz no magic zu stir men’s blood,” it would seem.


But denkpause the show weil das a augenblicke (use die space bar — the a shortcut): now ist the time an the article wie we need kommen sie stop admiring all these exceptional designs and instead reflect ~ above what we room seeing and what it really means.

For starters, kommen sie conclude that fenster devised ambitious, albeit unimplemented, plans zum the development of berlin would it is in a dangerous mis-characterization, in two ways. Firstly, that did not dafür much envision “fixing” berlin as completely destroying it und rebuilding a neu city bei its place, favor a Phoenix climbing or some comparable deranged nazi- metaphor. Together Hitler plotted to destroy die world in order kommen sie usher an a neu Third Reich, liebe made plans zum a total zu sein on the city and people des Berlin in order kommen sie achieve his perfect vision.

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Secondly, it would certainly be wrong kommen sie conclude that spdbewerber only planned this assault. Return he constructed little, he invested years making disastrous “progress” bei the early on stages des his scorched-earth campaign. Bei 1937 Hitler named speer General building Inspector zum the Reich Capital und granted ihm extraordinary powers, which the used kommen sie demolish whole neighborhoods and forcibly relocate thousands von residents hinweisen a tempo that would oase made robert Moses jealous: urban rebirth on an insane scale. Jewish family members were moved to concentration camps zu make room zum other dislocated Berliners whose residences were bulldozed, an a sickening game of cascading misery. All metropolitan planners have a responsibility kommen sie remember this aspects von the master-builder’s tenure, and to it is in aware des the sad parallels through our very own planning history.

So finish were Speer’s plans zum destruction the he would certainly joke, wie man Allied bombers had a particularly successful night, the they were doing his job for him. Had Germany’s eventual loss not occurred (and the city’s basic sandy soils been much more conducive to supporting his proposed structures — he ausblüten had some technical issues zu work through), he would surely oase demolished even more des the alt city, including die Reichstag und the brandenburg Gate.

And to what end? Here, too, one is reminded des Moses. As described in bei excellent article in the Guardian:

Architects and urban planners who have analysed city an recent years case it would certainly probably oase been nightmarish to live in: hostile to pedestrians, that would regularly schutz be sent out underground kommen sie cross streets, und with a chaotic roadway system, together Speer’s did not believe an traffic lamp or trams. Citizens would schutz been made zu feel otherwise impressed und inhibited von the towering structures roughly them.

Even much more chilling, liebe actually contemplated die destruction von his very own beautiful developments 1000 years bei the future, expounding his Ruinenwerttheorie–a “theory von ruin value” — zum the architecture monuments he designed, a sort des perverted death-cult in stone, the stadt as mausoleum.

But beyond this historical context, there is a deeper, ideological belästigt with Speer’s vision zum Berlin. As documented an his extensive plans und brought zu life by amazonas Studios zum us to contemplate, die cityscape von Welthauptstadt Germania ist stunning. And “stunning” zu sein the preferred effect: just like other art forms (film and music come to mind), Hitler subscribed zu a specific “shock-and-awe” school des architectural design (hence ns obsession through scale, permanence, and order); die effect ist to render ns individual meaningless and elevate the zustand above every else. (Interestingly, developers fretted end how kommen sie ensure that the führen himself would not be diminished über the scale des these significant works: in the days prior to Jumbotron screens, how might a crowd of 180,000 even seen the einer speaking, specifically one who was only 3 inches taller than Napoleon?)

But perhaps we need kommen sie feel die shock und try to push back on the awe: also if these structures space glorious, carry out we endorse the beliefs they embody? und is that possible kommen sie separate ns two? nur as zu sein true for the music of Carl Orff and the films von Leni Reifenstahl, Albert Speer’s architecture zu sein inextricably linked kommen sie fascist belief — and this is more than just guilt von association. In all three these cases, the artists may schutz been masters von their particular crafts, but their crafts were designed zu unleash extremely an effective emotions and used to incite equally dangerous actions. Die techniques und tools they perfected are incredibly effective: they it seems ~ to schutz hit upon certain universals rules of aesthetics — certain idealogen forms — that just work.

Even an ext problematically, ns techniques von fascist design (or music or film or graphic design) may in fact be deswegen powerful the they transcend history and even geo-politics: this ist not nur a “Nazi problem” we tun können relegate to die past. These devices work zum fascists, yet non-fascists are tempted to use them as well. As dietmar Schirmer has actually noted, viel of ns best design from ns period — whether in Berlin, Paris, or Washington, dc — employs ns “Stripped Classicism” favored von Speer. (Schirmer deshalb cites die more recent dispute over ns WWII Memorial on ns Washington Mall: some doubters charge that bei attempting to capture a “1940s style,” ns designers schutz essentially developed a “fascist-looking” American memorial.) further complicating ns story, the influence in reality runs in multiple directions: bei addition kommen sie admiring Haussmann’s Paris und classical Rome, fenster was a big fan of L’Enfant’s monumental plan zum Washington, dc — deshalb where are the roots of the problem?.

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The are afraid here, or course, ist not a superficial one. Together McLuhan reminded us, the is the message, and we as such risk eating a bit des fascism bei our diet every time we benefit from this techniques. Together a wise freund once quipped, “There space two kinds of people: those that feel the all parades space a wenig bit fascist, und fascists.”

Anarchists, situationists, insurgent resistance cells, hippies, lovers, dreamers, mystics, poets, and other avowed counter-culture anti-fascists have long struggled through this challenge: tun können we use ns tools of fascism without being fascist ourselves? is there such a point as “anti-propaganda propaganda” or in un-monumental monument? and what need to a important democratic resources look like? (These belastung questions space left as bei exercise for the reader.)

From die author: As in antidote to Speer’s visions and “Man bei the High Castle,” i recommend a palette-cleansing viewing of Walther Ruttman’s 1927 film, Berlin: Symphony des a good City, i m sorry showcases Weimar Berlin, before Hitler. Sadly, ns delightful cuckoo-clockwork stadt he depicts was doubly destroyed by both sides throughout the zu sein — but we can blieb speculate about this alternative world that wasn’t, a more pleasant alt-alt-history.