When I said in my last post that I was headed for something connected with Hitler's Welthauptstadt Germania plans, this is what I meant. It's...
A block of concrete. With cracks in it. Exciting, isn't it?
This is the Schwerbelastungskörper (heavy loading body) which stands between the S-Bahn tracks and a housing estate in the Tempelhof district of Berlin. It was built in 1941 as part of the planning process for Hitler's desired transformation of Berlin into Germania.
Berlin is built on unstable ground, with sandy soil, no bedrock and a high water table. This causes problems occasionally - the demolition of the Palast der Republik (as mentioned in my earlier post about Schloßplatz, for example, was done very slowly and carefully, with all removed material being replaced by something of equivalent weight, out of fears that its removal could otherwise lead to changes in the water table, damaging the foundations of nearby buildings.
Similarly, engineers tasked with building Germania wondered whether the ground would be solid enough to hold some of the huge structures which Hitler had asked architect Albert Speer to create. He had planned a monumental axis running from north to south, with a colossal 117 metre high triumphal arch at the southern end, just a little further south from here and a huge Pantheon-like 'Volkshalle' at the northern end, near where the Reichstag is today.
To give you an idea of just how far that would be, this picture was taken from the Kolonnenbrücke, close to the Schwerbelastungskörper.
The buildings in the distance are Potsdamer Platz, two miles away. The arch would have been another mile south from here, and the Volkshalle almost a mile north of Potsdamer Platz, so close to four miles in total, with structures at each end big enough to be clearly visible - and still imposing - from the opposite end.
The idea with the Schwerbelastungskörper was that if it sank less than 6cm in two years, the earth would be considered stable enough to build on; it sank 19. War intervened before Hitler's plans could progress any further.
The Schwerbelastungskörper has recently been restored and, apparently the area surrounding it is now open to the public on Sundays. Coming on a Tuesday, all I could do was peer over the high fence surrounding it.