Edited by: Riccardo Del Fabbro – Architecture Department Editor – firstname.lastname@example.org
Proofreading: Bianca Baroni
Where : Berlin, Germany
Artworks: “materic cylinder: contemporary historical drill”
These three sequences are taken from the first episode of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”, 1969.
I like to imagine that a similar dialogue happened in the early 40s between the man with the mustache and specialists of the company Dyckerhoff & Widmann AG, builders of this massive cylinder.
Well, we can start.
The “Schwerbelastungskörper” was built in 1941 near Tempelhof, Berlin and is a hypothetical stand for a triumphal arch.
This cylinder was supposed to test the behavior of alluvial soil, in expectation of high stress due to the construction of many monuments for the transformation of Berlin in “Germany”, the new capital of the Nazi Reich.
In particular, the architect Albert Speer planned the creation of a monumental axis North-South: in the north a huge Pantheon in the style of “Volkshalle” would have taken place, while in the south there would have been a 117 m Triumphal Arch, located right in the area of Schwerbelastungskörper.
The weight of the so-called ” heavy load-bearing body”, translated by Schwerbelastungskörper, is 126500 tons, has a diameter of 21 meters and is 32 meters high in total, 14 m above ground level, 18 m underground.
After three years after its construction, this volume of concrete collapsed as much as 18 cm, exceeding the limit of 6 cm expected to be able to build the monumental arch.
The sinking of the cylinder didn’t scared Hitler at all: he ordered the continuation of the work of the great monuments, but “unfortunately for him” a little later the war ended and this massive structure was completely forgotten.
Over the years, this area has become residential, for this reason it has been impossible to dismantle the concrete mass.
It is now a monument.
Its historic nature collides with its geological feature.
Its shape resembles that of a drill, a series of geological strata that tell the different eras and different glaciations.
We could call it a contemporary historical drill.
Its layers are related to the materiality of concrete, each layer tells the effort, the sweat of the workforce, each layer is reminiscent of the tragedy unleashed by the cultural choices of the time.
Everything has remained as if this cylinder was still in working phase.
Climbing up the metal staircase next to this giant, we come to a lookout point from which you can see the skyline of the city.
Once at the top, about 15 meters high, you can see that this monument, about 1% of the total size of what was to be the arch of triumph, would have assumed such proportions to wipe out the concept of city, replacing the emblem in macro-miniature of a real empire, something monstrously fascinating from architectural point of view, something monstrous in all other features.