The Topography of Terror, being an outdoor based museum in central Berlin, more precisely in Potsdamer Platz, allows the public to delve into the shameful history of the City that other than in this space, is somewhat disregarded and ignored by Berliners today.
The cite that held the headquarters of the gestapo and SS offices and control rooms during Hitler’s reign in 1933-1945, now houses a documentation centre that was designed in a competition in 2005 and eventually built then opened to the public in 2010. The previous headquarters were bombed in and largely destroyed in the 1945 allied bombings, leaving an open space that later would hold a section of the Berlin wall that was in the middle of the American and Soviet sectors that still stands today. The first exhibitions open in 1987, as part of Berlins 750th anniversary, during excursions of the land the cellar of the former buildings were discovered where many political prisoners were tortured or executed. This then prompted people to change the cite into the open museum that it is today, in hope that the infamous history would act as a lesson for the future powers of Berlin. In 1992, three years after the fall of the wall a permanent exhibition was planned and designed in a competition by Peter Zumthor; during construction the building was demolished in 2004 due to the spiralling costs and Zumthors experimental techniques. Again in 2005 a competition was launched and won by Heinz W. Hallmann who’s designed stands today since 2010.
Standing low to the ground, the documentation centre blends seamlessly into its surroundings. In terms of the architecture, the building doesn’t fit into what appears to be a typical Berlin design; its low key, modern design does however reflect the style that can be found in Potsdamer Platz; it is somewhat soulless. A point picked up by many is the contrasting styles of the building now and that of the previous Nazi headquarters, today we see a simple, square centre that does not leave the space feeling as if it is detracting from the topic and history that it holds, yet also stands out from its surrounds of huge, white washed government buildings. The empty spaces around the building is said to be an anomaly of the city that has been rebuilt so many times. Inside the building, the information starts from the election of the Nazi party, up to the end of their reign, giving intricate details of their network and how they operated and controlled the countries around them. Whilst giving information on the crimes commited by the national socialists, the centre also focuses on the careers of such high ranking officers such as Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich and Rudolf Diels, who from 1933 onwards planned the systematic execution of millions across Europe. The exhibition also contains a 15 minute walking tour that goes around the grounds and shows the remains of the previous building with photos to help the public to put into context how the headquarters would have operated.
Alongside the many different memorial exhibition centres throughout the capital, the Topography of Terror has become the most visited centre with over 500,000 people through the year.