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Karl Friedrich Schinkel – Oh-Berlin’s very own guide to his architecture in the city

Karl Friedrich Schinkel – Oh-Berlin’s very own guide to his architecture in the city

Architecture, People on November 17, 2011 12:24 pm


“The sole path to modern greatness lies in the study of the ancient.”

These words encompass the essence of Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s (1781–1841) artistic vision. Like his hero and mentor Friedrich Gilly, Schinkel understood that Greek architecture was the pinnacle of this concept and so applied ancient Grecian architectural conventions to his own work as a marker of the ascendancy of the Prussian empire.

Tour of his existing works

Of Schinkel’s 40 completed works in Berlin, 17 remain today. Unfortunately a number of his buildings fell victim to ‘symbolic demolition’ at the hands of occupying forces in the city throughout the last two centuries. Nonetheless, the ones that did survive are a huge pull for visitors, and our guide will help you navigate your way around them.

Altes Museum by dalbera_flickr Neue Wache by roryrory_flickr

Central Berlin is home to a number of Schinkel’s greatest achievements, the most central of these clustered together. Bear in mind these works are interesting both outside and in so you really could spend a whole day looking around them properly. Our mini guide in Mitte you will take you around the..

Schauspielhaus (1818–21) – After the destruction of Langhans’s Nationaltheater, Schinkel replaced it with the Schauspielhaus, a brilliant design derived from the Ancient Greek Choragic Monument of Thrasyllus, Athens, with the square columns of Ancient Egyptian temples. Accompanied by the twin churches in the Gendarmenmarkt it forms one of the most striking urban ensembles in Berlin.

then make your way to the

Friedrichswerdersche Kirche (1821-30) – The building is currently part of the Berlin State Museums’ ensemble, holding the Alte Nationalgalerie’s collection of nineteenth-century German sculpture. In the upper floor there is an exhibition dedicated to the life and work of Schinkel.

then onto the

Neue Wache (1816-18) – the earliest of Schinkel’s greatest works, it was originally built as a guardhouse for the troops of the Crown Prince of Prussia, but the building has been used as a war memorial since 1931.

then over the

Schloßbrücke (1822-24) - The Schloßbrücke (‘Palace Bridge’) over the Spreekanal links the Spree Island, the former location of the historic Berlin Palace, with the street ‘Unter den Linden’. On the bridge there are sculptures according to an overall design by Schinkel, which depicts the life of a warrior.

and finishing up at the

Altes Museum (1822-30) – This was built to house the Prussian royal family’s art collection. The building counts among the most distinguished in the Neoclassic style, and was a high point of Schinkel’s career. Since restoration work in 1966, it now houses the antique collection of the Berlin State Museums.

Tip: Start your tour by taking the U-Bahn to nearest stop Französische Str.

Biography of early life
Biography of early life

1781– Schinkel born in Neuruppin, about 17 miles northwest of Berlin.
1787 – He loses his father to the great fire of Neuruppin.
1794 – He moves with his remaining family to Berlin.

When Schinkel arrived in 1794 Berlin was still a small and relatively obscure city with a population of only 156,000. The paludal terrain it was based on was still laden with canals and dikes, and lined with primitive buildings made mostly of wood. These surroundings were juxtaposed to Berlin’s status as the capital city of a rising state.

1799 – He enrolls for architectural training under mentor Friedrich Gilly (1772 – 1800), who inspired Schinkel to move away from music and art and focus his studies on architecture. Schinkel moves into the Gilly family household.
1800 – A tragic year for the 19 year old Schinkel, who loses both his mother and his good friend Friedrich.

Though a talented architect, David Gilly (Friedrich’s father) lacked the raw aesthetic vision of his late son and the young Schinkel. As a man of convention and functionality, David Gilly made clear the importance of mathematics and structural engineering in architecture at a time when the trend in Germany seemed to be a withdrawal from such values in teaching practice.

Gilly subsequently formed his own school for young architects in Berlin to focus on these neglected arts, and inspired Schinkel’s lifelong love for Neo-classical architecture. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the only prominent Neo-classical buildings in Berlin were Langhans’ Brandenburg Gate, inspired by the Athenian Propyleum, and the new Mint by Gentz (who taught Schinkel at the Bauakademie). In the years to come Schinkel’s vision and innovation would shape the very landscape of Berlin according to this style, in ways that remain obvious today.

Schinkel Baukadamie by joseph a_flickr

1803-05 Schinkel studies vernacular and medieval architecture during his tour of Italy and France, and is captivated by the architecture he finds in Milan and Naples.

Note: It is his synthesis of the Classical and Gothic that gives much of his later work the signature ‘Schinkel’ hallmark.

1806 – Schinkel returns to Berlin in the year of the defeat of Prussia by the French. These are lean times with no architectural commissions, so Schinkel makes panoramas and dioramas to get by. His work attracts the attention of Queen Luise.
1809 – Queen Luise commissions him to redecorate several palace-interiors in Berlin and Charlottenburg. He is soon appointed to a post in the Department of Public Works, and his influence over the landscape of Berlin takes off.
1810 – Death of the Queen. Schinkel co-designs her grave in Charlottenburg and memorial at Gransee over the next two years.
1813 – Schinkel designs the Iron Cross military decoration.
1815 – He is promoted to Geheimer Baurat (Privy Building Officer) with powers to plan Berlin and oversee all State and Royal building-commissions.

Did you know? In 1815-16 Schinkel provided the highly celebrated background artwork for Mozart’s famous opera ‘Die Zauberflöte’ (The Magic Flute)

Schinkel’s legacy

Schinkel died before Germany’s industrialization really took off, so his fascination with innovative materials and methodology had little scope for developing beyond theory. Throughout his life Schinkel used materials with sensitivity, and his attitude toward new technologies and industrialization was always judicious. Couple this with his elegance as a designer, had Schinkel lived on to mid-century when the tools for realizing his visions became available one can only imagine the impact this would have had on the panorama of Berlin as we see it today.

But ‘what-ifs’ aside, and in spite the many demolitions of his work that took place over time, the legacy of one of Germany’s most innovative and forward-thinking minds lives on in the buildings he created, the people he inspired, and the Berlin we know and love today. And, akin to the quote at the beginning of the article, this forward drive was inherently rooted in his ability to look to the past and learn from what has already been.

If only everyone were little more like Karl Friedrich Schinkel.

Information and full list of works
Practical information and comprehensive guide
Existing Works
1810-40 Mausoleum of Queen Luise (with H. Gentz), Berlin
Charlottenburg, Mausoleum im Schlosspark, Spandauer Damm 20, 14059 Berlin

1817-18 Neue Wache, Berlin
Neue Wache, Unter den Linden 4, 10117 Berlin
1818-21 Kreuzberg Monument (later altered), Berlin
Viktoriapark, Katzbachstraße 21, 10965 Berlin
1819-21 Schauspielhaus, Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin
Konzerthaus Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt, Charlottenstraße, 10117 Berlin
1820-33 Monument for General Scharnhorst, Invaliden Friedhof, Berlin
Invaliden-Friedhof, Scharnhorststraße 33, 10115 Berlin
1821-30 Friedrich Werdersche Kirche, Berlin
Friedrichswerdersche Kirche, Werderscher Markt 1, 10117 Berlin
1821-24 Schloß Tegel (remodeling), Berlin
Schloß Tegel, Adelheidallee 19, 13507 Berlin
1821-26 Luisenkirche (tower only), Charlottenburg, Berlin
Luisenkirche, Gierkeplatz 4, 10585 Berlin
1822-24 Schloßbrücke, Berlin
Schlößbrücke, 10178 Berlin
1822-30 Altes Museum, Lustgarten, Berlin
Altes Museum, Bodestraße 1, 10178 Berlin
1823 Arts and Crafts School (remodeling), Berlin
1824-25 Neue Pavillion (now Schinkel Pavillion), Berlin
Schinkel Pavillon, Oberwallstraße 1, 10117 Berlin

1824-29 Schloß Glienicke (including park structures), Berlin
Schloss Glienicke, Königstraße 36, 14109 Berlin
1832-34 Nazarethkirche (altered and rebuilt), Wedding, Berlin
Freie Nazarethkirche e.V., Nazarethkirchstraße 51, 13347 Berlin
1832-34 Saint Johannes (later altered), Alt Moabit, Berlin
Evangel. Kirchengemeinde St. Johannis, Alt-Moabit 25, 10559 Berlin
1832-34 Saint Paul, Gesundbrunnen, Berlin
St.-Pauls-Kirche, Pankstr. 54, 13357 Berlin
1835-37 Große Neugierde, Glienicke Park, Berlin
Schloss Glienicke, Königstraße 36, 14109 Berlin
Follow this link for the entire Schinkel collection – including existing works, demolished works and unrealised projects all over Europe.
And if you’d like a map with the entire Schinkel collection in Berlin, we made one for you here.

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