Albert Speer Jr., famed architect and son of top Nazi, dies at 83

The works of architect and urban planner Albert Speer Jr.

Architecture runs in the family

Albert Speer Jr., one of the most important German architects and urban planners, died unexpectedly on September 15, 2017 in Frankfurt. During his life, he worked on redesigning city centers of various German cities, but also developed entire satellite cities in China. He did not want to be compared to his father, the prominent Nazi architect.

The works of architect and urban planner Albert Speer Jr.

Building bridges

Albert Speer Jr. is closely tied to Frankfurt where he received his first major commission in 1972 from DG Bank. Later he was also involved in the construction of the European Central Bank (ECB) and designed the Museum Riverbank and the Holbeinsteg pedestrian bridge connecting the two sides of city center in the 1980s.

The works of architect and urban planner Albert Speer Jr.

Big plans for Frankfurt

In 1999, Speer Jr. presented the model of his "Urban Entertainment Center" in the former freight station at the Deutsche Bahn headquarters in Frankfurt. The media dubbed his uncompleted project a pipe dream in 2004, as its costs had already reached 50 million euros. The area is now a green residential area, but many of Speer's ideas were abandoned.

The works of architect and urban planner Albert Speer Jr.

Criminal court complex in Saudi Arabia

Wherever he designed buildings, Albert Speer dealt with the climate and the topography of the region. He planned energy-efficient, and as small as possible spaces, such as here for the Criminal court complex in Saudi Arabia (above). On the other hand, he was also criticized for working for totalitarian countries.

The works of architect and urban planner Albert Speer Jr.

A German city in Shanghai

West of Shanghai, this small town of 30,000 inhabitants made up of half-timbered houses was designed by Speer Jr. The houses in characteristic German style are modeled after the city of Weimar in central Germany. In total, there are seven satellite cities like this one around Shanghai designed by different architects in the style of their European homeland.

The works of architect and urban planner Albert Speer Jr.

The German look in Shanghai

Albert Speer Jr. popularized the contemporary German architectonic style in China, but also in Saudi Arabia, Libya or Nepal, where he was able to realize his vision of an "ideal city." He would never build skyscrapers in his satellite towns since he was worried about their sustainability and the people living in the area.

The works of architect and urban planner Albert Speer Jr.

Life-work balance

Not only in his satellite towns but also in the buildings themselves, Albert Speer Jr. always strived to create harmony between living and working spaces, just like in the office complex and residential building "Oval" in Frankfurt. Speer Jr. received many awards during his life, including the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2006.

The works of architect and urban planner Albert Speer Jr.

The Kranhäuser in Cologne

Fewer cars, shorter routes and vivid inner cities were always Speer's goals. In Cologne, he presented a master plan for the redevelopment of the city center in 2008, which included a museum island, green areas and a boulevard along the Rhine. As in many other cities, not everything was done according to his plans, but at least the redesign of the bank of the Rhine River in Cologne was completed.

His father, Albert Speer, was the infamous chief architect behind Adolf Hitler's monumental ambitions. The son aimed to make cities sustainable. The prominent architect and urban planner died aged 83.

Albert Speer Junior died in hospital on Friday after a fall the previous day. The star architect was renowned as an environmentally-friendly urban planner who was involved in projects worldwide.

In the shadow of his Nazi father

His father and namesake was Hitler's top architect and Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Nazis.

Despite struggling to overcome his father's overwhelming shadow, Speer Junior also worked with researchers to reckon with the heavy historical burden his dad had left – he participated, for example, in the three-part docudrama, "Speer and Hitler: The Devil's Architect" (2005).

Read more:Once taboo monuments now revived in Berlin

Speer Junior, the eldest of six children, was born in Berlin in 1934. After World War II, he took on a carpentry apprenticeship and later studied architecture in Munich.

International projects

In the early 1960s he started working with an acclaimed architecture firm in Frankfurt; and in 1964 set up his own architecture and urban planning practice, Albert Speer & Partner (AS&P), in the same city.

His firm soon won several awards including the Deubau Prize in 1966. He involved sociologists in his urban planning, which was an unusual approach at the time.

AS&P now has about 200 employees worldwide, with a branch in Shanghai. His firm was involved in designing the European Central Bank building in Frankfurt and the Expo 2000 in Hanover.

Speer also designed stadiums for the Qatar 2022 football World Cup, and worked on projects in Saudi Arabia and Algeria.

'The devil's architect'

His father, dubbed "the devil's architect," designed the massive complex in Nuremberg where Nazi rallies where staged, and Hitler's chancellery in Berlin. He also prepared ambitious plans for Germany – if it had won World War II. 

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He was also the only defendant at the Nuremberg trials to accept a degree of responsibility for the Nazis' crimes. Speer Sr. spent 20 years in prison and was released in 1966. His memoir, "Inside the Third Reich," also acknowledges his own responsibility. He died in 1981 at the age of 76.    

eg/sb (dpa, AFP)