One of Europe’s most monumental sporting venues is located at the edge of Berlin’s Westend District: the former Reichssportfeld, which is now known as Olympiapark Berlin. Planned by Werner March, the complex built for the 1936 Summer Olympics was the first major large-scale construction project undertaken by the Third Reich. Along with the Olympic Stadium and other sports facilities, the 130-hectare area also featured a parade ground and an open-air theater.
The complex began life as a racing course that opened in the Westend District in 1909. Four years later, the Deutsches Stadion planned by Otto March was built in its inner field. Otto’s sons Werner and Walter March then built the Deutsches Sportforum here in 1927–28. Adolf Hitler commissioned Werner March rebuild the stadium in 1931 in conjunction with the construction of a Reichssportfeld that March realized in only four years.
March’s based his design on classical architecture. The complex opens in the east with the Olympic Square, followed by the oval Olympic Stadium with an original capacity of some 100,000 spectators. The monumental impression made by the 300 by 230 meter, reinforced-concrete stadium is furthered by the shell-limestone and travertine facing. The stadium’s noticeably low exterior height is due to the playing field and running track lying twelve meters below ground level at the entrance.
The parade ground is located to the west of the stadium. It includes the 78-meter-tall bell tower with the integrated Langemarckhalle in the base that commemorated the soldiers who fell in World War I. The Olympiapark also encompasses the open-air theater, the House of German Sports (with a remarkable domed hall), and other stadiums for hockey, swimming, and equestrian events, as well as monumental sculptures, all of which were constructed for the 1936 Olympic Games.
After World War II, the British used large part of the landmark-protected complex as their headquarters until 1994. It is now mostly used for sporting events and concerts. The architectural firm of von Gerkan, Marg and Partners renovated the Olympic Stadium from 2000 to 2004, enlarging it underground. In close consultation with the structural engineers, the architects also designed a roof cover that seemingly hovers over the stadium. [KL/HY]
Contact and opening hours
Documentary exhibition at the Glockenturm im Olympiapark, Berlin
Summer Season 2019:
30 March to 3 November daily 9am to 6pm