WHY WAS THE ENSEMBLE IN THE CENTER OF BERLIN DESCRIBED AS A “TOTAL ART WORK”?

In accordance with the architectural principles of Vitruvius and Palladio, the interaction of the major edifices in the center of Berlin, arising out of the individual buildings from various centuries, created an exciting and yet extraordinarily harmonious ensemble.

“Architecture does not limit itself to single buildings as islands of elite taste, it requires the shaping of interaction with the cityscape as an entirety. Architects and landscapists can produce this totality, which is more than the sum of its parts, if they work together.”

(Prof. Volkwin Marg, architect, in “Building in Accordance with Nature – the Heritage of Palladio in Northern Europe”)

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From left to right, 1. Palace Square with the Great Elector, 1906, 2. Forum Fredericianum, 1905.

The prestige buildings of the old center have this common architectural language:

“The understandability of the language is based on the convention of architectural expressions. The expressions of form have their origin in the archetypal metaphors from the history of building such as towers, vaulting, temples, pillared halls, colonnades, and staircases. The rules of architectural expression are served, just as in music, by simple means – order, rhythm, axiallity, reflection or repetition, balance and symmetry.”
(Volkwin Marg)

 

“Only he who moves freely within the requirements will make a good showing, if, within this freedom, he produces something which is characteristic but also has individuality.”
(Karl Friedrich Schinkel)

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From left to right, 1. Royal Library, “The book Commode” in local slang, 1904. 2. The Opera Square with the opera house and St. Hedwigs Church, around 1880

“The plaza upon which the building is to stand, is, as the main square of Berlin, something very special. One has to take care not to place something wretched there instead of something simple and elegant, and thus uglify the main square instead of beautifying it.”

(Karl Friedrich Schinkel regarding the construction plans for the Old Museum on the Pleasure Garden, 1820)

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From left to right:
Gendarmenmarkt Square, 1902. Pleasure Garden and Old Museum, 1910

Accordingly, one must be careful that an urban ensemble effect can arise in the historic center of Berlin with a building that again takes account of the old existing communication lines of the present structures, and at the same time is built in a style that harmoniously interprets the historic edifices. Only in this fashion can each of the historic buildings once again regain its original artistic stature.

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