Calls for demolition of 'Nazi' pavilion in Venice

Hitler and Mussolini once exchanged fascist salutes in its entrance hall and four years later the monumental, grey-pillared building in Venice's Giardini park was turned into a Nazi shrine displaying busts of the two dictators alongside muscle-bound Aryans sculpted by the Third Reich artist, Arno Breker.

Nowadays the German Pavilion – which is used for German art and architecture exhibits during the prestigious Venice Biennale – remains a prime example of Nazi design.

The removal of swastikas and the Nazi eagle have been the only significant changes made to its grim and forbidding exterior since 1945.

But with the architecture Biennale set to open on 29 August, an angry dispute has erupted over demands that the pavilion be razed to the ground because it is an unpalatable reminder of past tyranny and an embarrassment to today's democratic Germany.

The call for the pavilion's demolition has come from the German architect, Arno Sighard Schmid, the influential president of the Federal Chamber of German Architects. "The pavilion is neither suitable for art, nor architecture," he declared in a recent interview. "It has no connection with the Venetian skyline," he added, insisting that the structure be torn down.

Mr Schmid's calls have since been echoed by a number of leading German architects and artists. Werner Schaub, the chairman of Germany's creative artist's association, wants the pavilion to be rebuilt. "One does not have to hang on to everything just because it's old," he said, arguing that the building was problematic because of its Nazi history and its internal design, which made it difficult to use as a place to exhibit art. "It would be good to knock it down and start again," he said.

German Biennale artists have also thrown their weight behind the demolition campaign. "It is one of the nastiest clichés about Germany around," an artist, Tino Sehgal, told Germany's 3Sat television channel. "It creates an image of Germany that has nothing to do with the reality of today."

The pavilion's opponents argue that the building is pure Nazi propaganda. They point out that the original, designed and built in 1909 with Ionic columns to resemble a Greek temple, was hastily revamped in 64 days in 1938 by the German architect, Ernst Haiger.

The pavilion was given a more imposing roof and its delicate Ionic columns were replaced by heavy, square Teutonic pillars, to conform with the architectural ideology of the Nazis.

But the pro-demolition camp faces a wide range of critics, including the German ministry of public buildings, the controversial performance artist Christoph Schlingensief, and Susanne Gaensheimer, the curator of next year's Venice art Biennale, which alternates with the architecture event.

Ms Gaensheimer, who is also the director of Frankfurt's Museum for Modern Art, claims that demolishing the building would be futile. "You can't change history by demolishing architecture. But we can use architecture to preserve our consciousness of history," she said. "Fantastic works of art have been shown in the German pavilion and that is what represents this country," she added.

Some German artists have managed to use the pavilion's Nazi past with imaginative effect during past Biennale events. In 1993, Hans Haacke was allowed to smash up the floor of the entrance hall where Hitler and Mussolini met in 1934. He left the debris lying on the ground and called the exhibit "Failed Hope". Four years ago a group of German architects built a bright red staircase on to the side of the building, giving visitors access to the roof and a stunning panoramic view of Venice.

In an attempt to continue the innovative tradition, Dr Gaensheimer has invited Mr Schlingensief, the enfant terrible of German performance art, to come up with an artistic concept for the pavilion for the 2011 Biennale.

Mr Schlingensief has won attention for provocative action art, such as his "Foreigners Out" stunt in Vienna in 2000, when he filled a Big Brother-style container with would-be asylum seekers and asked the public to select which of the unfortunate foreigners should be deported.

Mr Schlingensief has dismissed the calls for the demolition of the pavilion as "idiotic".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people Ex-wife of John Lennon has died at her home in Spain
News
Lavigne performing in Seoul at the beginning of last year
people
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Barista

£6 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This person must also have exceptional a...

Ashdown Group: Development Engineer - Slough - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Development Engineer/ Sys...

Recruitment Genius: Software Support Analyst - Level 2

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of financial software so...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a security software com...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?