Monday, November 7, 2011


Sanssouci is the name of the former summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, in Potsdam, near Berlin.  The palace was designed by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff between 1745 and 1747 to fulfill King Frederick's need for a private residence where he could relax away from the pomp and ceremony of the Berlin court. The palace's name emphasizes this; it is a French phrase (sans souci), which translates as "without concerns", meaning "without worries" or "carefree", symbolising that the palace was a place for relaxation rather than a seat of power.

Containing just ten principal rooms, it was built on the brow of a terraced hill at the centre of the park.
The influence of King Frederick's personal taste in the design and decoration of the palace was so great that its style is characterised as "Frederician Rococo", and his feelings for the palace were so strong that he conceived it as "a place that would die with him".[1] 

In the park, east of the palace, is the Sanssouci Picture Gallery, built from 1755 to 1764 under the supervision of the architect Johann Gottfried Büring.
It stands on the site of a former greenhouse, where Frederick raised tropical fruit. The Picture Gallery is the oldest extant museum built for a ruler in Germany. Like the palace itself, it is a long, low building, dominated by a central domed bow of three bays.

In the Baroque tradition, the principal rooms (including the bedrooms) are all on the piano nobile, which at Sanssouci was the ground floor by Frederick's choice. While the secondary wings have upper floors, the corps de logis occupied by the King occupies the full height of the structure. Comfort was also a priority in the layout of the rooms. The palace expresses contemporary French architectural theory in itsapartement double ideals of courtly comfort, comprising two rows of rooms, one behind the other. The main rooms face the garden, looking southwards, while the servant's quarters in the row behind are on the north side of the building. An apartement double thus consists of a main room and a servant's chamber. Doors connect the apartments with each other. They are arranged as an "enfilade", so that the entire indoor length of the palace can be assessed at a glance.
The palace is generally entered through the Entrance Hall, where the restrained form of the classical external colonnade was continued into the interior.  The walls of the rectangular room were subdivided by ten pairs of Corinthian columns made of white stucco marble with gilded capitals. Three overdoor reliefs with themes from the myth of Bacchus reflected the vineyard theme created outside. Georg Franz Ebenhech was responsible for gilded stucco works. The strict classical elegance was relieved by a painted ceiling executed by the Swedish painter Johann Harper, depicting the goddess Flora with her acolytes, throwing flowers down from the sky.
The white-and-gold oval Marmorsaal ("Marble Hall"), as the principal reception room, was the setting for celebrations in the palace, its dome crowned by a cupola. White Carrara marble was used for the paired columns, above which stucco putti dangle their feet from the cornice. The dome is white with gilded ornament, and the floor is of Italian marble intarsia inlaid in compartments radiating from a central trelliswork oval.
Three arch-headed windows face the garden; opposite them, in two niches flanking the doorway, figures of Venus Urania, the goddess of free nature and life, and Apollo, the god of the arts, by the French sculptor François Gaspard Adam, established the iconography of Sanssouci as a place where art was joined with nature.
The adjoining room served as both an audience room and the Dining Room. It is decorated with paintings by French 18th-century artists, including Jean-Baptiste PaterJean François de TroyPierre-Jacques CazesLouis Silvestre, and Antoine Watteau. However, here, as in the majority of the rooms, the carved putti, flowers and books on the overdoor reliefs were the work of Glume, and the ceiling paintings emphasise the rococo spirit of the palace. This exuberant form of ornamentation of rococo, Rocaille, was used in abundance on the walls and ceiling in the music room. Much of the work was by the sculptor and decorator Johann Michael Hoppenhaupt (the elder). A 1746 fortepiano by Gottfried Silbermann which once belonged to Frederick the Great remains as a nostalgic reminder of the room's original purpose.
The King's study and bedroom, remodeled after Frederick's death by Frederick William von Erdmannsdorff in 1786, it is now in direct contrast to the rococo rooms. Here, the clean and plain lines of classicism now rule. However, Frederick's desk and the armchair in which he died in were returned to the room in the middle of the 19th century. Portraits and once missing pieces of furniture from the Frederick's time have also since been replaced.
The circular library deviated from the spatial structure of French palace architecture. The room is almost hidden, accessed through a narrow passageway from the bedroom, underlining its private character. Cedarwood was used to panel the walls and for the alcoved bookcases. The harmonious shades of brown augmented with rich gold-coloured Rocaille ornaments were intended to create a peaceful mood.
The bookcases contained approximately 2,100 volumes of Greek and Roman writings and historiographies and also a collection of French literature of the 17th and 18th centuries with a heavy emphasis on the works of Voltaire. The books were bound in brown or red goat leather and richly gilded.
The north facing gallery overlooked the forecourt. Here, again, Frederick deviated from French room design, which would have placed service rooms in this location. Recessed into the inner wall of this long room were niches containing marble sculptures of Greco-Roman deities. Five windows alternating with pier glasses on the outer wall reflect the paintings by Nicolas LancretJean-Baptiste Pater and Antoine Watteauhung between the niches opposite.
To the west were the guest rooms in which were lodged those friends of the King considered intimate enough to be invited to this most private of his palaces. Two of Frederick's visitors were sufficiently distinguished and frequent that the rooms they occupied were named after them. The Rothenburg room is named after the Count of Rothenburg, who inhabited his circular room until his death in 1751. This room balances the palace architecturally with the library. The Voltaire Room was frequently occupied by the philosopher during his stay in Potsdam between 1750 and 1753.[13] The Voltaire Room was remarkable for its decoration, which gave it the alternative name of the "Flower Room".
 On a yellow lacquered wall panel were superimposed, colourful, richly adorned wood carvings. Apes, parrots, cranes, storks, fruits, flowers, garlands gave the room a cheerful and natural character. Johann Christian Hoppenhaupt (the younger) designed the room between 1752 and 1753 from sketches made by Frederick.

Schloss Charlottenhof

Charlottenhof Palace is located southwest of Sanssouci Palace in Sanssouci Park at PotsdamGermany. It is most famous as the summer residence of Crown Prince Frederick William (later King Frederick William IV of Prussia).
The park area with its various buildings can be traced back to the 18th century. After it had changed hands several times, King Frederick William III of Prussia bought the land that borders the south of Sanssouci Park and gave it to his son Frederick William and his wife Elisabeth Ludovika for Christmas in 1825.
The Crown Prince charged the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel with the remodeling of an already existing farm house and the project was completed at low cost from 1826 through 1829. In the end, Schinkel, with the help of his student Ludwig Persius, built a small neo-classical palace on the foundations of the old farm house in the image of the old Roman villas.  

Pure, simple, elegant and graceful,  a modest palace in a charming and pastoral setting.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


The Einstein Tower (German: Einsteinturm) is an astrophysical observatory in the Albert Einstein Science Park in PotsdamGermany built by Erich Mendelsohn. It was built on the summit of the Potsdam Telegraphenberg to house a solar telescope designed by the astronomer Erwin Finlay-Freundlich. The telescope supports experiments and observations to validate (or disprove) Albert Einstein's relativity theory. The building was first conceived around 1917, built from 1919 to 1921 after a fund-raising drive, and became operational in 1924. Although Einstein never worked there, he supported the construction and operation of the telescope. It is still a working solar observatory today as part of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam. Light from the telescope is directed down through the shaft to the basement where the instruments and laboratory are located.
The exterior was originally conceived in concrete, but due to construction difficulties with the complex design and shortages from the war, much of the building was actually realized in brick, covered with stucco. Because the material was changed during construction of the building, the designs were not updated to accommodate them. This caused many problems, such as cracking and dampness. Extensive repair work had to be done only five years after the initial construction, overseen by Mendelsohn himself. Since then numerous renovations have been done periodically.  It is often cited as one of the few landmarks of expressionist architecture.

This is definitely an odd building, particularly so in the context of Potsdam.  The shape reminds me a bit of the Great Sphinx of Giza, but the Sphinx has been transformed into a kind of machine ready to travel through the cosmos at light speed.  I find it to be "ahead of its time" and quite remarkable.
The astrophysical observatory Potsdam is immediately adjacent.  Completed in 1879.
Observatories are very unique structures.  This one is one part villa, one part water tower, and one part rook.  As I walked through the park, I was struck by the quietude and solemnity of the place.  I imagine that this really represents what working as an astrophysical observer entails.  Long hours of serious meditation and study.  To unravel the mysteries of the universe, a perfect place this once was.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Planetarium Hamburg

The Hamburg Planetarium is a planetarium in Hamburg , which since 1930 in Hamburg's city park in a former water tower is an observation platform at a height of 42 meters. 
Since then it has been several times on the cutting edge of technology and has brought its various programs and events with well over 300,000 visitors per year. [1]

The Dresden architect Oscar Menzel won a 1908 competition for the construction of a large water tower in the suburb of Winton . The nearly 65 m high tower from 1912 to 1915 was directed by Fritz Schumacher built and commissioned during the First World War in operation.

Schumacher, the architectural tradition of the 19th Century still largely arrested, tried to combine the forms of Wilhelmine architecture with the modern art deco design. The nearly 65 meter high tower with a nearly 30-meter wide frontage on the ground floor is surrounded by an elegant gallery, which is accessible from the eastern face side via two flights of stairs. The unusual height resulted from the required function to include the water tower in the network of high-pressure zone. The vessel with 23 meters diameter was nearly 63 meters above sea level and took 3000 cubic meters of water

The planetarium was opened in April 1930.  The core of the museum is a projection dome with a diameter of 20.6 meters. Here the visitor can observe past and future space-experience, eclipses, auroras, meteors and space effects. 2002/03, the Planetarium in 15 months has been extensively remodeled with many technical innovations. In addition, early 2009's digital projection system has been revamped.
I saw the event "Planet Erde: Alarmstufe Grün (3D)".  This was actually the first 3D film I had ever seen, and to be honest, I found it difficult to watch.  As I do not watch TV or film at all, the motion in combination with the tranquility of the images hypnotized me into immediate sleep.  I could not stay awake.  However, when I removed the glasses, I found it a bit easier.  Certainly, an excellent theater, nonetheless.
After the show, I walked to the nearby biergarten, the Landhaus Walter, the largest of its kind in Hamburg.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Neue Nationalgalerie

Neue Nationalgalerie at the Kulturforum is a museum for modern art in Berlin, with its main focus on the early 20th century. It is part of the Nationalgalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The museum building and its sculpture gardens were designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and opened in 1968.

Built in 1968, the Neue Nationalgalerie was the first building completed as a part of Berlin’s Kulturforum, a cluster of buildings dedicated to culture and the fine arts. The architecture of the museum is, according to its admirers, a powerful and expressive object in itself.  Nearly all of the museum's collections are located within in a stone podium, solid to protect the art from damaging daylight, partially in the ground of the sloping site, with windows only on one side facing a walled sculpture garden.
 A minimalist steel and glass pavilion, located on the paved roof plaza above the podium, serves as the entrance lobby and the special exhibit gallery. The pavilion, while a small part of the museum, is the primary architectural expression. Its structure consists of a large steel roof deck supported by eight exterior columns, creating an effect of a shelter with a single floating plane. Large glass sheets that define the interior space are set far back from the roof edges, framed by delicate steel mullions. The glass walls and the elimination of all interior columns emphasizes the idea of free space as a place for artists to present their work, unencumbered by the necessity of a shelter to protect visitors and contents from the elements. 
Natural light transmitted through these walls reflects off the dark, highly polished floor, emphasizing the extension of space beyond the boundaries of the interior, a symbolic removal of solid walls as barriers. The podium roof plaza is itself another open air gallery for public sculpture, extending the exhibit space of the pavilion to the outside.
The unusual natural illumination, coming from around and below the viewer rather than above, and the continuous suggestion of motion in the ceiling, combine to shock the viewer out of his or her usual way of seeing, perhaps preparing the audience to bring a fresh eye to the art housed below.
Yet, at the same time, the simplicity and rigorously pure geometry of the space's rectangular forms makes the design seem tranquil, rather than obtrusive. This careful balance of free-flowing space and a stable arrangement of architectural components is typical of Mies van der Rohe's mature style.

This building simply exists to reflect and enhance that which is contained within and outside of it.  I like the way van der Rohe understands that large glass panels are not transparent in daylight, but show images, like paintings within themselves.

British Embassy in Berlin

Upon reunification in 1991, the German government returned the seat of government from Bonn to Berlin. Accordingly, the British government decided to reoccupy the Wilhelmstraße site, despite the German Foreign Office no longer being located in this street. An architectural competition was held, and won by the practice of Michael Wilford and Partner (see also Manuel Schupp). Ground was broken at the site on 29 June 1998 by Derek Fatchett MP, and the new building opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 18 July 2000.
Berliners love to give nicknames to new buildings and the building soon became known as „das bunte Haus“ (the colourful house).  The building is next to the Hotel Adlon and around the corner from Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate.  
The sandstone cladding is an obvious reference to this.
Michael Wilford and Partners wanted to give passers-by an insight into the work of the Embassy so the facade has been cut wide open to reveal the circular purple conference drum and the triangular pale blue Information Centre.
The street in front of the embassy is completely closed off to motor vehicles, and again, I felt the suspicious glance of the guards on me as I observed the building.
I was a bit annoyed with the way that the Union Jack was tethered, and I have no idea why this is done.  Perhaps yet another restriction placed by the heavy hand of the local authority.  
In 2009, the British Embassy Berlin was assessed by BREEAM, the leading and most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings, and was awarded the new "BREEAM in-Use" certificate.  In 2010 it received the BREEAM in-Use International Award. The Embassy building achieved a ‘Very Good’ rating for Part 1: Asset Performance and Part 2: Building Management Performance.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Embassy of the Netherlands, Berlin

The Embassy of the Netherlands in Berlin (DutchNederlandse ambassade te BerlijnGerman:Niederländische Botschaft in Deutschland) is the Netherlands's diplomatic mission in Berlin,Germany.
The Royal Netherlands Embassy by OMA / Rem Koolhaas in Berlin is the new symbol and showcase for the Netherlands in Germany.
A solitary building, integrating requirements of conventional civil service security with openness was needed. Traditional (former West Berlin) city planning guidelines demanded the new building to complete the city block in 19th century fashion, the (former East Berlin) city planning officials had an open mind towards the OMA proposal for a freestanding cube on a - block completing - podium. The office in the end realized the building in a combination of obedience (fulfilling the block’s perimeter) and disobedience (building a solitary cube).
As the diplomats used the hallway in the old embassy building a lot for informal meetings OMA gave them a building with an enormous hallway as centre: a continuous trajectory reaching all eight stories of the embassy shapes the building’s internal communication. 
The workspaces are the ‘leftover areas’ after the trajectory was ‘carved’ out of the cube and are situated along the facade. 
Reception spaces are activated inside the cube. Other semi-public spaces are located closer to the facade and at one point cantilever out over the drop-off area. From the entry, the trajectory leads on via the library, meeting rooms, fitness area and restaurant to the roof terrace. The trajectory exploits the relationship with the context, river Spree, Television Tower (‘Fernsehturm’), park and wall of embassy residences; part of it is a ‘diagonal void’ through the building that allows to see the TV Tower from the park.
The (slightly over pressurized) trajectory works as a main airduct from which fresh air percolates to the offices to be drawn off via the double (plenum) facade. This ventilation concept is part of a strategy to integrate more functions into one element.
I would have liked to go inside, but of course, "openness" and "security" are contradictory concepts.  It seems terribly unfortunate that paranoia has preempted the original function of the embassy.  I think that this may have been "to help" people, including foreigners, but now it seems that the diplomatic missions of most countries are more self-serving than anything else.  

Neue Synagoge

The Neue Synagoge ("New Synagogue") was built 1859–1866 as the main synagogue of the Berlin Jewish Community on Oranienburger Straße. Because of its splendid eastern Moorish style and resemblance to the Alhambra, it is an important architectural monument of the second half of the 19th century in Berlin.
The building was designed by Eduard Knoblauch. Following Knoblauch's succumbing to illness, Friedrich August Stüler took responsibility for the majority of its construction as well as for its interior arrangement and design. It was inaugurated in the presence of Count Otto von Bismarck, then Minister President of Prussia, in 1866. It was badly damaged prior to and during World War II and subsequently much was demolished; the present building on the site is a reconstruction of the ruined street frontage with its entrance, dome and towers, and only a few rooms behind. It is truncated before the point where the main hall of the synagogue began.