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Heinz Hilten Collection

Identifier: MC-96
Architectural drawings, topograpical and survey maps, newspaper clippings, correspondence, materials relating to the Marshall Space Flight Center, pictures, posters, pamphlets, magazines, and obituary of Heinz Hilten.


  • 1943 - 2017


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research in the Archives & Special Collections reading room. Handling guidelines and use restrictions will be communicated and enforced by archives staff members.

Conditions Governing Use

This material may be protected under U. S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code) which governs the making of photocopies or reproductions of copyrighted materials. You may use the digitized material for private study, scholarship, or research. Though the University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives and Special Collections has physical ownership of the material in its collections, in some cases we may not own the copyright to the material. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in our collections.


1 Linear Feet (1 box and several materials in cases.)

Biographical / Historical

Heinz Hilten was born on April 29, 1909 in Berlin, Germany. [1] He grew up in Berlin, and attended college at the Technical University of Berlin, where he earned a master’s degree in Architecture and City Planning. [2] After graduating, he worked in the architectural firm of Paul Freidrich Niess until World War II broke out in 1939. [3]

In the war, Hilten worked as a government-employed architect for Wernher von Braun’s engineering group at Peenemunde. [2] He worked here until 1942, when he was drafted into the Germany army. He served for two years, but returned to Peenemunde in 1944, where he continued working with the von Braun group. [2] When the war ended in 1945, he did not travel to America with the other members of the Peenemunde team but instead went to Augsburg, Germany, where he worked as an architect for the city until 1954. [2] His children would later claim that his architectural designs for Rosenaustadion, a sports stadium in Augsburg, was his greatest design achievement. [3] He worked on several other major projects in Augsburg until the United States ballistic missile program expanded in 1954, and he came to America to rejoin the von Braun team. [3]

Redstone Arsenal was rapidly expanding throughout the 1950s, and Hilten was named the Architect and Master Planner for this expansion. [2] In America, one of his first jobs was to design a home addition for Redstone commander Maj. Gen. Holger Toftoy. [4] For the Army, he also helped plan the locations for The test stands and labs that would become Marshall Space Flight Center. [4] He also helped pick out the launch pad sites for what would become Kennedy Space Center in Florida. [4]

Hilten worked for the Army until 1960, when Marshall Space Flight Center was opened and he transitioned over to NASA. [2] He continued as the Master Planner for NASA from 1960 until his retirement in 1978. [2] At Marshall, he was responsible for planning and designing the overall development of the Center so that each lab was functional and able to expand if needed. [2] He designed many labs across the Center, including the Structure and Mechanics Lab, Guidance and Control Lab, Computer Lab, Aerodynamics Lab, Assembly Test Lab, and many others. [2] He also worked on the Administration building and other facilities such as the Saturn V Dynamic Test Stand [3], as well as the roads, bridges, and other infrastructural aspects of Marshall. [2]

In addition to his work for NASA, Hilten also helped design and plan the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he particularly designed the UAH Research Institute. [3] He also helped design numerous homes in the Huntsville area, including those for Wernher von Braun and fellow team members Ernst Stuhlinger and Erich Neubert. [3]

Hilten was also an accomplished musician, and played the piano and violin. His informal music performances with other Peenemunde scientists directly led to the founding of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra. [3] Hilten contirbued even further by helping to design the Symphony’s concert hall. [3]

When describing his work with NASA, Hilten said that “I have always said that I was not a space scientist that designed the rockets, but that I designed the space those scientists worked with”. [4] After his retirement in 1978, he continued sketching out home designs and renovations for clients. He loved to draw, and he also took up photography as he aged. [4] He lived to be 103, and died on March 1, 2013. [1]


[1] Heinz Hilten Obituary

[2] Heinz Hilten biography

[3] “A Life’s Work: The Heinz Hilten Collection” – UAH Archives Heinz Hilten Collection, Box 1, Folder 1

[4] “Architect for rocket team hits a century” – UAH Archives Heinz Hilten Collection, Box 1, Folder 83

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Historic Huntsville Foundation, 2016.

Existence and Location of Copies

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, and competing priorities. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections as they are acquired, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.



Mark A. Potter, Andrew Tucker
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives & Special Collections Repository

M. Louis Salmon Library
301 Sparkman Drive
Huntsville, AL 35899 Alabama 35899 United States of America