What’s in a name?

An Infamous Name

Albert Speer: the name possessed by two generations of men, with the same profession, and a similar aptitude, but contrary values. Albert Speer, Sr. designed projects with a majestic scale and the intent to support the structure of a new order. He wanted his projects to speak to future generations of the power of the Nazi Regime. The work of his son, Albert Speer, Jr., emphasizes sustainability and flexibility. Although his projects are of a similar scale to his father’s, they are not aimed at control but at the facilitation of community mechanisms.

Albert Speer & Albert Speer, Jr.

Albert Speer & Albert Speer, Jr.

Albert Speer, Sr. was “Hitler’s Architect” and became the Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich during World War II.  Although we may gasp at the close relationship Speer, Sr. kept with the Fuhrer, he saw Hitler as an instrument of hope in a senseless, depressed post World War I Germany.

The Cathedral of light above the Zeppelintribune

The Cathedral of light above the Zeppelintribune

After the Nuremburg trials, Speer, Sr. spent over 20 years (1945-1966) imprisoned for his involvement with the Third Reich. His testimony claiming that he only did what the client wanted, without knowledge of the result, spared his life. The true nature of his involvement remains a mystery. Later interviews with Speer, Sr. point to his struggle to reconcile what  he believed with what reality demonstrated.

Heritage or Destiny

Overcoming ones heritage can be an overwhelming task. Each morning a reflection bearing the resemblance of family mannerisms and features stares back at you in the mirror. A heritage of darkness and dishonesty intensifies the challenge of moving beyond that image.

Albert Speer's Plan for Berlin to be rebuilt as "Germania"

Albert Speer’s Plan for Berlin to be rebuilt as “Germania”

Albert Speer, Jr. carries his fathers name and the notoriety that goes with it. Instead of hiding away or changing his name Albert Speer, Jr. has built a successful planning and architecture firm and a portfolio full of grand projects. 

Proposed Complex for FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar

Albert Speer, Jr.’s Proposed Complex for FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar

Albert Speer, Jr. stands out not just because of his success as a planner and architect but also because of the determination evident in the path of his career. He has chosen to do what he loves, to do it well, and to do it with the good of others in mind. From one year to the next he has built upon his successes. Ever forward looking, he has not been defined by his name or his heritage but by the portfolio of his choices.

Making a Name for Himself

Albert Speer Jr. had already built a successful career in planning and architecture by the time his father was released from prison. He received his first international prize in 1964 and opened his architecture firm the same year. His portfolio includes projects such as Expo 2000, the design of the Shanghai International Automobile City and the Central Axis in Beijing. Current work includes participation in the Munich bid for the 2018 Olympics and the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup Complex. He is best known for the plans of  mega-events (as-p website) such as these, although his firm participates in projects involving traffic planning, landscape architecture, and urban, town, and airport planning.

"How to Build for the World Cup: Albert Speer, Jr. and Qatar's Dream Football City"

“How to Build for the World Cup: Albert Speer, Jr. and Qatar’s Dream Football City”

Able to Sleep at Night

Each planner must figure out who they are and what they believe in. They are held to a standard of ethics but that does not protect them from following a corrupt regime. They are left with a grand task of not only delivering a meaningful project to their clients but also discerning the justice of the project, the intent of its initiators and the effects on the end users.

Looking back, it is clear that the actions directed by Adolf Hitler, carried out by his minions were atrocious. The daunting reality is that the majority of those who followed him truly believed that he what preached was best for society.

A professor once counseled that whatever we do for a living we must be able to sleep at night. We must do something that we are passionate about, that adds something good. If we are haunted by our decisions and cannot rest, we have not chosen well. In an interview with Robert Jay Lifton, Albert Speer, Sr. spoke of how mesmerized he had been by Hitler. He said he would not have done anything differently. However, toward the end of his life, at the age of 73, he found himself haunted by Hitler, desiring to be free of the force that had continued to haunt his life.

Speer, Jr., now in his early seventies, with a flourishing career, has a legacy of tremendous projects to his name. In a Herald News Daily story, Jim O’Donnell asked him, if “walking in the professional footsteps of three generations of his family before him, does he think he inherited anything from his father that influenced his work? Speer shrugs his shoulders and laughs. ‘Hopefully not.‘ “

One thought on “What’s in a name?

  1. Albert Speer (Sr.) has been a perennial favorite subject to discuss in first-year Architecture Studios, I suspect it’s due to his relationship with Hitler serving as an archetype for the “megalomaniacal architect slaved to an equally megalomaniacal client”. Viewed this way, there’s a lot of modern and contemporary architecture (and architects) who fall within the same trope. I honestly did not know that his son had gone on into the architectural field — though, in retrospect, it appears to run in the family (Speer Sr.’s father was also an architect). Within the context of the German population’s angst over war-crimes complicity (and their desire to prove they’ve transcended culpability), I suspect in his early career Speer Jr. was able to steer quite a few commissions his way. In his later career, it looks like Speer, Jr. has taken in a lot of commissions from Big Oil producing nations — I wonder how history will view this in the context of his father’s biggest client.

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