Friday, 9 August 2013

Olympic Stadium 1936

It's tough to have to share your souvenir shop with National Socialism. It must be even tougher to be Hertha Berlin's goalkeeper, standing between the posts with that collosal clock tower behind him in the temple of doom, with stray thoughts about how only 4000 sundays ago, a bit further back on the equestrian field, 150,000 (thats roughly three times the population of St Albans) ten year olds did cartwheels in unison for no good reason at all. Hitlers pre-occupation with children was after all a particularly nasty case of grooming, because they'd all be dead within ten years. It's enough to make us almost relieved that the most anti-social of twentieth century networks has been replaced by sulking in a cartoon onesie on the sofa.
Hertha no doubt suffer from low self esteme, anybody would if they were forced to play here, so they have taken on some of the belligerence of a German Millwall ('no one likes us and we don't care'). You can't blame them, the only team that is relieved to play away from home. OK, that's the architect talking, the one who thinks about 'place' and 'space' but their performance or lack of it seems to prove a point. Hence the Olympic Stadium Berlin is most informative on whether architecture does anything to you or not. The effect it had on me, as a sensation, was a bit peculiar, for after thinking about it for a while over splendid rindwurst in the rather good cafe you realise that it is clearly not horrific enough. You expected much worse than this. You've expect it to be really gargantuan horrific, but it's not, it is well designed. That's the sucker punch, it's well designed and awful. For instance it is much smaller than it should be, since the track and pitch is dug in to what must be one of the world's largest holes (the Nazi's liked digging) and so the section allows you to enter half way up the seating. That means the collonade around the thing, although it stretches for what seems like miles, isn't so big it overwhelms. Meanwhile they've built a cute (very well designed) canopy over the thing which stands on the slenderest of columns which is unnervingly delicate. The only thing that spoils it in terms of taste are the ghastly torch fittings everywhere.
So in this sense, I'm in line with the authorities who tend to blame all the embarrassing bad taste bits on the bad taste of Hitler himself. But that can't be right, because if a building can have bad khama, this one has it in spades and the football team proves it. This simulation of the imaginary ancients, the pomposity of Nazi theatre, is still gruesome in it's phoniness, no matter the architects attempts to fix it up right.

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