An inconvenient truth...

Wednesday 15 Aug 2007

World press in frenzy over Beijing Axis plan

The national and international press have been in a frenzy this week over the new north-south axis reshaping central Beijing. Much play has been made of its inherent Imperial connotations, and the involvement of German architect Albert Speer, son of Hitler’s architect and close confidant of the same name. Parallels have even been drawn with the rise of the Chinese totalitarian state and pre war Germany. It’s a great story for the media but it wouldn’t be the first time the press got it wrong over Beijing (see Comment 2nd May 2007).

Seventy years ago, his father was dubbed the “the first architect of the Third Reich” and was best known for his plans for the Welthauptstadt (World Capital) of Germania, with its vast three mile central axis, flanked by railway stations. Now, astonishingly Albert Speer (the 3rd) is watching the realisation of his father’s plan, not in Berlin but Beijing. So read many stories in the world media this week. But are the media to blame for creating hype or has Beijing been deliberately courting controversy?

In the 1930s Speer's office had a whole room given over to a scale model of the city of the future, which Hitler could access from the Chancellery gardens and pore over in private. He instructed his designers to take their inspiration from the glory days of Rome, Athens, and Paris. The French capital’s central axis was oringinally initated by Louis X1V during his reign 1661-1715 and later developed by Haussmann between 1853 - 1870. Hitler’s vision also included a plan for the Arayn Games, a replacement for the more

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