The Architecture of Doom

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Undergångens arkitektur
Undergångens arkitektur.jpg
Directed by Peter Cohen
Produced by Peter Cohen
Written by Peter Cohen
Narrated by

Rolf Arsenius
Bruno Ganz (German)

Sam Gray (English)
Music by Peter Cohen
Sven Ahlin
Richard Wagner (non-original music)
Cinematography Mikael Cohen
Gerhard Fromm
Peter Östlund
Distributed by First Run Features (DVD)
Release dates
  • 13 October 1991 (1991-10-13) (Sweden)
  • 30 October 1991 (1991-10-30) (U.S.)
Running time
119 minutes
Country Sweden
Language Swedish (Also German and English versions)

The Architecture of Doom (Swedish: Undergångens arkitektur) is a 1989 documentary by Swedish director Peter Cohen and narrated by Rolf Arsenius. German- and English-language versions have also been released.


The film explores the obsession Adolf Hitler had with his own particular vision of what was and was not aesthetically acceptable and how he applied these notions while running the Third Reich. His obsession with art he considered pure, in opposition to the supposedly degenerate avant-garde works by Jewish and Soviet artists, reveals itself to be deeply connected to Hitler's equally subjective and strict ideal of physical beauty and health. A series of so-called degenerate art exhibitions were sponsored in order to depict modernist painting and sculpture as expressions of mental illness and general depravity. Classical art that reinforced Hitler's personal taste, from Roman statuary to Dutch oil paintings, was scavenged from across Nazi occupied Europe.

Hitler is shown as an amateur architect, planning new building designs for the Third Reich that express his vision of a Nordic empire to rival those of classical antiquity. He is said to be intimately familiar with the grand opera houses of Europe. He visits Paris with a group of architects and artists who will be tasked with rebuilding Berlin to suit the Nazi aesthetic. Designs for new structures include depictions of the ruins they will make for distant generations.

The film posits that Hitler's affinity for Greek and Roman antiquity is also expressed in his insistence of a totalizing strategy of war. In what Hitler imagined to be the style of Sparta and Rome, war was meant to annihilate the enemy, enslaving the population and erasing the history of the vanquished.


  • Shown at 1991 Berlin Film Festival (International Forum)
  • Blue Ribbon Winner, 1993 American Film & Video Festival

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