Nazi Party Congress Hall, Nuremberg

When we visited southern Germany in 2011, one of the places I wanted to see was the former Nazi Party rally ground on the outskirts of Nuremberg. The site is one of huge historic importance and although all of the identifying insignia have been absent for nearly seventy years, much of the foundations and layout still identifiably conform to the original architectural plans.

The main building still standing is the former Congress Hall, the interior of which is open to the sky and freely accessible. Whilst much of the the building is derelict, some areas are still well maintained, housing the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, the “Serenade Courtyard”, a Documentation Centre and the permanent exhibition Faszination und Gewalt (Fascination and Terror; translated slightly incorrectly by the museum itself, as Gewalt means violence). The building has been officially protected as the largest example of National Socialist architecture since 1973 and is the only part of the entire rally grounds which was not designed by “Hitler’s architect” Albert Speer.

Surprisingly, given the history of the grounds, the only lasting impression I retain from our visit was that which the architecture was designed to induce: the use of scale to dominate and impress. Despite the facts that the Congress Hall was never finished, the massive size of the outer walls (at 39 metres, yet little more than half the intended height) is still an imposing sight, even without the banked stands lining the interior or the intended roof. Images and plans from the 1930s and 1940s, which you can see on this website, convey just how awe-inspiring the architects had intended the completed building to be.

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