Building the Future
An institution in the making. A building in the making. The Bauakademie.
What is the Bauakademie?
The Bauakademie is both an institution and a building. The institution was founded in 1799 in Berlin as a state educational institution for the training of architects and civil engineers. In 1836 the Bauakademie moved into its own building, which was designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The building was in the historic center of Berlin, within proximity of the Royal Palace. Schinkel’s Bauakademie building was one of the most significant and influential works in the history of European architecture. It was torn down in 1962.
When was the Federal Bauakademie Foundation established?
In 2016 the German Bundestag resolved to reconstruct the Bauakademie, and in 2019 it established a nonprofit foundation to do so. The Federal Bauakademie Foundation has the mandate to manage the construction of the building and develop an educational and outreach program. As a forum for innovative construction and sustainable urban development, the Bauakademie is set to once again become a pioneering institution.
What significance does Schinkel’s Bauakademie building have in architectural history?
The building pointed the way for modern construction. It was one of Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s principal works and also his most innovative project. The clarity of its plan, the compact overall form, and its construction principles were far ahead of their time. The building was a cube-like block with four equal sides. The facades were subdivided in a grid and dominated by large windows and protruding piers. The skeletal structure was very modern: instead of solid walls, the Bauakademie had a system of freestanding piers that were braced together with iron struts. Wall panels, windows and ceiling vaults were inserted in the spaces between the structure. Equally modern was the building’s incorporation of sliding windows and central heating.
How did the Bauakademie building influence modern architecture?
The skeletal structure of the building accommodated the new industrial production methods of the time. Thanks to the uniform grid, many building elements could be mass-produced in advance. This innovation continues to shape architecture right up to the present. The Bauakademie was also the first prestigious government building with a facade made entirely of unplastered bricks. Brick technology would later be widely adopted for public buildings. Many schools, hospitals, military barracks and office buildings were built this way. Schinkel advanced brick construction into an exceptional art form. In order to enliven the large wall surfaces, he used colored glazed brick courses and decorative terracotta reliefs, giving the brick walls a delicate and lively appearance.
What other works did Schinkel create?
Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781–1841) was one of the most important architects of the 19th century and strongly influenced the construction activity in the Kingdom of Prussia. His built works in Berlin include the Neue Wache (New Guardhouse), the Altes Museum (Old Museum), the Schauspielhaus (Theater, now Konzerthaus Berlin) and the Friedrichswerder Church. Some of his designs were never realized, including a design for a large department store on the boulevard Unter den Linden. Schinkel worked as an art theorist and art expert and as an exhibition organizer and product designer. He painted landscape panoramas and other works on canvas, and he designed furniture and stage sets. His most famous stage designs were those he created for Mozart’s “Magic Flute.”
How was the Bauakademie building used?
In the first half century after it opened, the Bauakademie was primarily dedicated to the training of architects. The number of students grew from 26 in 1836 to nearly 800 in 1870. Because the spaces in the Schinkel building could no longer accommodate the demand, the Bauakademie moved in 1885 to the campus of the Technische Hochschule (now TU Berlin) in Berlin-Charlottenburg. The Bauakademie building also housed the Oberbaudeputation, Prussia’s highest building authority. As director of this government agency, Schinkel himself lived on the top floor of the building until his death. There were retail shops on the ground floor, which Schinkel envisioned would generate rental income to help defray the construction costs. After the Bauakademie moved out, the building housed various museums, research facilities and educational institutions.
What institutions were located in the building after the Bauakademie moved out?
From 1885 to 1934, the Preussische Messbildanstalt, or Royal Prussian Photogrammetric Institute, had its headquarters here. This state photo archive created an extensive documentation of historical architectural monuments. From 1886 to 1945, the Prussian Meteorological Institute and its very own weather station were based in the Bauakademie. The Royal Collection of Musical Instruments (now the Museum of Musical Instruments) also resided here between 1888 and 1902, as did the University of Berlin’s Historical Seminar from 1908 to 1922. In 1913, the Bildnisgalerie, or Portrait Gallery, opened on the second floor as a branch of the Nationalgalerie (National Gallery) dedicated to its portrait collection. In 1920, the newly founded Deutsche Hochschule für Politik, or German Academy for Politics, which specialized in providing nonpartisan training to political scientists, moved in. The National Socialists transformed the school into an educational institution that supported the regime, one that was later affiliated with the University of Berlin. In 1938, the art historian and museum director Paul Ortwin Rave set up his office in the Bauakademie, which then became the center of Schinkel research.
Why was the Bauakademie demolished?
In February 1945, the building burned after a bombing raid. The roof and most of the floors collapsed. After 1950, the East Berlin authorities aspired to reconstruct the building. The goal was to establish the official seat of the newly founded Deutsche Bauakademie (German Building Academy, later: Building Academy of the GDR) here. The reconstruction, which began in 1952, progressed rapidly at first. By 1953, it was already possible to celebrate the topping-out ceremony. But the interior work stalled. New plans called for the area to undergo a “socialist transformation.” The new building for the East German Foreign Ministry was now slated to be erected on part of the Bauakademie site. So the GDR government had the Bauakademie torn down in 1962, despite protests from home and abroad.
How did the commitment to reconstruction evolve?
After reunification in 1990, civic initiatives with construction- and architecture-related use concepts formed to advocate for reconstruction of the Bauakademie. In 2002, it proved possible to erect a full-size mock-up of a corner of the building. A prototype building, the so-called Red Hall, was opened in the middle of the site to accommodate information sessions. Between 2004 and 2019, a giant facsimile printed on tarpaulins replicated the former appearance of the Bauakademie. These initiatives led to the resolution by the German Bundestag to reconstruct the Bauakademie and to establish the Bauakademie Foundation.