Reflections from Desert Edens

Philipp Lehmann

Source: Deutsches Museum in Munich.

Atlantropa centered on a giant dam at Gibraltar, a barrier between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean linking Europe and Africa. “Atlantropa” was Sörgel’s own neologism, Combining “Atlantic Ocean” with “Europa” and evoking the lost city of Atlantis. At least on paper, Atlantropa actually surpassed the mythical city: upon construction, it would expose new land around the Mediterranean basin, change climatic conditions as far afield as Northern Europe, and produce vast amounts of hydropower to fuel the irrigation and complete environmental transformation of North Africa. From today’s vantage point, Atlantropa may seem merely like a bizarre sideshow to the momentous events of the interwar period. Despite its unique scale and unrivalled hubris, however, the project was no anomaly in its time and place. Atlantropa became a topic of public debate in Germany and beyond, fitting well into the politically and culturally volatile years of interwar Europe.


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