04 August 2009

Olympisches Dorf, Berlin, 1936

In the Sporthalle, Olympisches Dorf

A couple of weeks ago I went with some friends to the Olympic Village of Berlin, from the Nazi 1936 Olympic Games, the ones in which Hitler had to stand the "outrage" of seeing a black athlete, Jesse Owens, winning four gold medals in track and field.

Forgive me a bit of historical contextualization: Werner and Walter March (the former designing also the Olympiastadion, actually with some "suggestions" by Albert Speer, since Hitler did not like the original design of concrete and glass - a glass-cage) designed and built the Olympic Village between 1934 and 1936 for the Summer Games held in Berlin; the Nazis wanted to show the world their power and magnificience. The selected area layed around 10km from the city, in Dallgow-Döberitz, now Elstal: the project consisted of 140 one-storey, 5 two-storey buildings, the Hindemburg House, Kommandanten House, a sport-hall, a swimming-pool, sauna, hospital and restaurant - the House of Nations - plus kitchens. After the games in the buildings were installed a school and a militar hospital, while after the war the Soviet Army took control of the area; the Village in summer looks like a vacation-residence in Tuscany, with a number of little houses surronded by maritime pines. In fact the ground was heavily modified to create two different levels and an artificial lake was created, also bringing here some animals from the Berliner Zoo.


I found myself making comparisons with the recent Chinese Games, concerned as well on the symbiosis between power and the ways to express it through architecture: the Olympic Village of Berlin covers roughly an area of 54 hectares, while the Beijing one 66 only, if we think that the former was supposed to host 4.000 athletes, while the latter 16.000, consisting of 22 six-floor buildings and 20 nine-floor buildings, as well as a clinic, restaurants, a library, a recreation centre, gyms, swimming pools, tennis courts, basketball courts and jogging tracks.

Beijing 2008 Olympic Village
Beijing Olympic Village, model. Photo by Remko Tanis

Here some pictures of the abandoned Village.
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