Sunday, April 21, 2013

Berlin in 1737

Becket, April 21, 2013

Stephan Pinkau, one of my colleagues in Dessau, has asked me to give a series of lectures on urban topics for his Summer School and I promised him to have one about Berlin just before their field trip to the German capital.

Must confess that I don't know very much about Berlin.  Where to start?

There is a beautiful 1737 map of Berlin that depicts the city during the rule of Frederick William I.  His father, Frederick I, had moved the capital of the newly established Kingdom of Prussia from K√∂nigsberg to Berlin shortly after his crowning in 1701.  The Thirty Year's War (1618-1648) had left in the city in ruins, but a century later Berlin had been rebuilt, repopulated and greatly expanded.

The map shows the central role of the Spree River in the development of Berlin's fortified core.  To the west of the fortifications the map also shows whole new areas of the city laid out as grids of rectangular blocks (note that the map is oriented with north pointing down,) Dorotheenstadt to the north and Friedrichstadt to the south.  Within this new fabric you can already identify Unter den Linden as a central axis running from the Palace to the east all the way to the square of Pariser Platz (that will have to wait until the defeat of Napoleon in 1814 to acquire its name) to the west.  Also Friedrichstrasse running north-south and ending in the circle now known as Mehringplatz.

Midway between the square and the circle, the octagon of Leipziger Platz completes Berlin's Baroque extension under Frederick William I and establishes the eastern end of the main axis of Friedrichstadt, Leipziger Strasse.

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