Schinkel in the year 1836
Karl Friedrich Schinkel
The Altes Museum
Museum") in Berlin
(13 March 1781 – 9 October
1841) was a Prussian architect
and painter. Schinkel was one of the
most prominent German architects and the best example of neoclassicism
was born in Neuruppin in the Margraviate of
He lost his father at the age of six in
Neuruppin's disastrous fire. He became a student of Friedrich Gilly (1772–1800) (the two became
close friends) and his father, David Gilly, in Berlin.
After returning to Berlin from his first trip to Italy in 1805, he
started to earn his living as a painter. Working for the stage he
created a star-spangled backdrop for the appearance of the "Königin
der Nacht" in Wolfgang Amadeus
's opera The Magic
, which is even quoted in modern productions of this
perennial piece. When he saw Caspar David Friedrich's
Wanderer above the Sea
at the 1810 Berlin art exhibition he decided that
he would never reach such mastery of painting and definitely turned
to architecture. After Napoleon's defeat, Schinkel oversaw the
Prussian Building Commission. In this position, he was not only responsible
for reshaping the still relatively unspectacular city of Berlin
into a representative capital for Prussia, but also oversaw
projects in the expanded Prussian territories spanning from the
Rhineland in the West to Königsberg in the East.
Schinkel's style, in his most productive period, is defined by a
turn to Greek rather than Imperial Roman architecture, an attempt
to turn away from the style that was linked to the recent French
occupiers. (Thus, he is a noted proponent of the Greek Revival
.) His most famous buildings are
found in and around Berlin. These include Neue Wache (1816–1818), the Schauspielhaus (1819–1821) at the Gendarmenmarkt, which replaced the earlier theater that was
destroyed by fire in 1817, and the Altes Museum (old museum, see photo) on Museum Island (1823–1830).
Schinkel would move away from classicism altogether, embracing the
Neo-Gothic in his Friedrichswerder
Church (1824–1831). Schinkel's Bauakademie (1832–1836), his most innovative building of all,
eschewed historicist conventions and seemed to point the way to a
clean-lined "modernist" architecture that would become prominent in
Germany only toward the beginning of the 20th century.
Schinkel, however, is noted as much for his theoretical work and
his architectural drafts as for the relatively few buildings that
were actually executed to his designs. Some of his merits are
best shown in his unexecuted plans for the transformation of the
Athenian Acropolis into a royal palace for
the new Kingdom of Greece and for
the erection of the Orianda Palace in the Crimea.
These and other designs may be studied in his Sammlung
(1820–1837) and his Werke der
(1840–1842; 1845–1846). He also designed the
famed Iron Cross
medal of Prussia, and
It has been speculated, however, that due to the difficult
political circumstances – French occupation and the dependency on
the Prussian king – and his relatively early death, which prevented
him from seeing the explosive German industrialization in the
second half of the 19th century, he did not even live up to the
true potential exhibited by his sketches.
- Karl Friedrich Schinkel 1781 - 1841: the drama of architecture,
ed. by John Zukowsky. With essays by Kurt W. Forster and Wolfgang
Pehnt, ISBN 0-86559-105-9.
- Jörg Trempler: Schinkels Motive. Matthes & Seitz,
Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-88221-866-4.
- Christoph Werner: Schloss am Strom. Die Geschichte vom Leben
und Sterben des Baumeisters Karl Friedrich Schinkel.
Bertuch-Verlag, Weimar 2004, ISBN 3-937601-11-2.
- Rand Carter, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, "The Last Great
Architect": http://www.tc.umn.edu/~peikx001/rcessay.htm (also used
as a reference)