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Dam Nation: Imaging and Imagining the 'Middle East' in Herman Sörgel’s Atlantropa

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Few utopian visions surpass that of Herman Srgel's Atlantropa, in terms of infrastructural, architectural and geopolitical ambition. Conceived in the interwar years and developed until Sörgel’s death in 1952, Atlantropa was an ambitious infrastructural proposal for a tightly linked Europe-Africa that was to be formed by damming the Strait of Gibraltar and the Dardanelles, and the creation of several transcontinental arteries supporting the flow of people and natural resources between the two 'civilizations'. Sörgel’s who emerged from a German school of geopolitical thinking that placed primacy on Lebensraum and the well-being of European races in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was one of the first architects to wholeheartedly bridge the gap between design and this form of discursive geopolitics. While touching on architectural elements of the proposal, this article focuses on the major regional planning and macro-architectural gestures articulated. Atlantropa not only shifted conceptions of Europe's geopolitical relations with its immediate neighbours, but also countered contemporaneous predispositions to eastward as opposed to southward expansion prevalent in German geopolitical thinking in the pre-World War II years.
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Keywords: Africa; Europe; Lebensraum; Zionism; geopolitics; infrastructure

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Harvard University

Publication date: 17 August 2012

More about this publication?
  • The International Journal of Islamic Architecture (IJIA) is intended for those interested in urban design and planning, architecture, and landscape design in the historic Islamic world, encompassing the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, but also the more recent geographies of Islam in its global dimensions. The main emphasis is on detailed analysis of the practical, historical and theoretical aspects of architecture, with a focus on both design and its reception. The journal is also specifically interested in contemporary architecture and urban design in relation to social and cultural history, geography, politics, aesthetics, technology, and conservation. Spanning across cultures and disciplines, IJIA seeks to analyze and explain issues related to the built environment throughout the regions covered. The cross-cultural and interdisciplinary nature of this journal will significantly contribute to the knowledge in this field.

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