An Examination of the Sea Resort Prora
Germany’s biggest island Rügen offers beautiful landscapes with endless beaches and forests. Just north of Binz, a small resort town at the sea, the island narrows because of the dimensions of Jasmund Bay. Here, there used to be a long, isolated beach adjacent to a forest, which covered the area between the bay and the beach.
Nowadays, if you take a drive through the forest in order to find the beach, you will be surprised. Out of nowhere the forest darkens and a huge concrete wall arises and blocks your view as far as you can see.(Appendix 1)
The “KdFͲSeebad der Zwanzigtausend”, or the “KdF sea resort of twenty thousand”, is located north of the town Binz on the island of Rügen. Based on Adolf Hitler’s idea, this sea resort building was built from May 1936 until the construction stopped at the beginning of the Second World War in 1939. The architect was Clemens Klotz. After the 2nd World War, Russian and East German troops were stationed in the remains of this building and practiced tank maneuvers in the woods. But also the time of the Cold War went by and the troops moved out and left an empty building. Currently this building is part ruin and part money pit for the adjacent counties. A small youth hostel and a little, unimpressive museum about Nazi Prora are the on ly proof of life and occupy about 3 percent of the space of the original construction. Prora can be seen as a monument now, a monument which demonstrates the definitions of National Socialist architecture, its unique characteristics and contradictions. It embodies the ideology of Nazi Germany from 1933Ͳ1945 in various themes.
In order to be more specific, it is essential to briefly observe Nazi architecture in its historical context, followed by a critical observation of the site of the Prora sea resort.
Aspects of Nazi Architecture
Prora is a perfect example of architecture during the time of the Third Reich. It embodies many properties which are commonly considered Nazi Architecture. These details will be explained later, but beforehand it is important to understand Architecture in the context of National Socialism. Although some architectural historians clearly define the architecture of the third Reich, it physically cannot be seen as a separate style.
With the intention of describing and hence finding a definition for the architecture of the Third Reich, its origin has to be put in a historical context. The term of the Third Reich Architecture came up in the years between 1933 and 1945 but drew its content from earlier times. During the time after the First World War, the foundations for the architectural thinking of the national socialists were laid out. The national socialists adopted two styles (actually more, but two are sufficient in the context of this paper), from the Weimar Republic and adapted them: the style of the neo classicism and modern architecture.1
Thus, architecture in the Third Reich was determined by previous existing periods and their development. The special separation of the stylistic and structural elements could be determined by the purpose of the building: political functions shaped the structural, physical and decorative appearance of the final project. This is one of the reasons why the era of Nazi architecture does not reflect a unified picture.
“Public buildings must be large and impressive and must imply that the life of the people as a whole was superior to individual lives”2
For example, one of the Nazis’ most distinctive styles of propaganda was neoͲclassicism. In these buildings, representative politics and architecture were visually connected. It was less the antique architecture or its revival in the classicism, but much more an opportunity to use a larger scale of this style monumentally. These buildings were supposed to impose a material impression which made the visitor feel small.3
On the other hand, some new housing or community facilities were planned to be less monumental and more modern. Here, the National Socialists implemented the modern architecture of the Weimar Republic. The Nazis also considered this kind of architecture to be a (politically) important instrument and therefore allowed modern conceptions of space and material to show their predominance.
As shown, Nazi architecture is defined by several styles, each of which was used when needed. The mixture of Nazi architecture is more complex, but for the purpose of exploring Prora, the previous ones are sufficient.
The Scale Issue of “The Colossus”
“…The Nazis employed architecture of colossal dimensions to overawe and intimidate…”4
Using the opportunity to describe the KdFͲSeebad building, the point of how Prora’s dimensions are out of scale can be made simultaneously. The words and numbers will speak for themselves and shall show why Prora’s architecture uniquely represents Third Reich architecture in the aspect of size and dimensions.
The native islanders unofficially named Klotz’s building “Der Koloss von Rügen”, which means as much as the “colossus” or “giant” of Rügen. Indeed, this building is one of the biggest complexes in Europe.
The idea for the dimensions of this building was based on the requirements for the
design competition: Room for 20,000 vacationers, 2,000 employers and technical installations had to be created. Klotz’s first design from 1935 underwent many modifications before its finalization in 1936.5
The building extends about 4.5 kilometers in a circular arc parallel to the coast in a 13 kilometer radius. Six story accommodation buildings form the main front elevation in four twoͲ kilometer fragments north and south of the center fairground. A 40 by 100 meter swimming pool is positioned in the center of each fragment, facing westward. Each of these wings is moreover subdivided into four 500Ͳmeter divisions, of which each has ten additions facing west. The parts between the staircase buildings are called “segments”, and hence each division consists of eleven segments and ten staircase buildings.
Attached every 500 meters on the other side of the main wings are fourͲstory community houses which reach all the way to the beach. They are approximately 110 meters long. This entire line of buildings is centrally divided by a 400,000 square meter fairground. It is framed by 433 meterͲlong reception buildings on either side. On the seaside the ground is bordered by a waterfront with two docks reaching out 300 and 800 meters into the sea.
The festival hall located in the center of the fairground, and hence in the center of the resort, represents the climax of the entire Prora complex. It had 20,000 seats and with its multifunctional purpose it could be used for sports, arts or propaganda events. Additionally, the fairground consists of a cinema, a large pool with fountains and a 85 Meter tower with a café on the top.6
Numbers and pictures can be very expressive but in order fully understand Prora and grasp its dimensions it helps you to naturally experience Prora. Nazi architecture intended to make the individual feel small and unimportant, but again very crucial in the context of the whole or of the Third Reich society.
1 See Page 1 15 and following: Taylor, R., The Word in Stone, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1974
2 Page 32, Scobie, A., Hitler ’ s State Architecture, Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park and London, 1990
3 See Teut, A., Architektur im Dritten Reich, Ullstein, Berlin, Frankfurt, Wien, 1967
4 Page 133, Taylor, R., The Word in Stone, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1974
5 Page 49, Rostock, Zadnicek Paradiesruinen - Das KdF Seebad der Zwanzigtausend, Links Verlag, Berlin, 1992
6 Ignoring which parts were actually built, I am expressing myself in present tense referring to the final construction plans: Page 54 Ͳ61, Rostock, Zadnicek Paradiesruinen - Das KdF Seebad der Zwanzigtausend, Links Verlag, Berlin, 1992
- Quote paper
- Axel Stelter (Author), 2008, An Examination of the See Resort Prora, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/92252