“Ein Platz und eine Idee”: Designing, Building, and Diffusing the 1972 Munich Olympics

By Matthew Gin

This thesis examines the 1972 Munich Olympics in light of West Germany’s attempts to remake the country’s image after World War II. With the downfall of the Third Reich in 1945 and the founding of West Germany as a liberal democracy in 1951, the country struggled to change international perceptions of itself the wake of the atrocities perpetuated by Nazi Germany. Hoping to project an image of the country as a friendly and peaceful nation, West Germany engaged the Olympic Games as an instrument of polity, one that could foster new international perceptions of the country through various mediums and sensorial experiences. The thesis pays particular attention to the work of architect Günther Behnisch and graphic designer Otl Aicher in establishing a spatial, visual and material regime that engaged the full range of human senses for the world’s Olympic encounter with Germany. To provide a broader historical and political context for the Munich Olympics, the thesis also examines the reconstruction of Munich after the war and the advent of television in West Germany.