Chief city of the district.
Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin
Politics and culture.
Location and site
Situated within a landscape of eroded hills and moraines in north central Germany. Potsdam is 10 km. from Berlin. The Berliner Forst and the Havel River, which widens into a series of lakes and ponds, provide the natural context for Potsdam’s castles and parks.
The ensemble of Potsdam is a masterpiece of urban design where parks and buildings are organised according to favourable perspective views within a natural setting. Principles of symmetry and spontaneity, the latter borrowed from English gardens, are applied to the design.
The artistic landscape remains harmonious despite the range of types of buildings and the richness, exhuberance and eclecticism of their styles. The Rococo style, even more than the Baroque or Classical style, is celebrated, and the Sanssouci Palace is a flourishing example of this mixture. Historicist in the 19th century, this architecture multiplies the references to earlier periods in the Sanssouci Park and in the ensembles of Glienicke and Pfaueninsel. Among the celebrated artists associated with these realisations are Knobelsdorf, Schinkel and Lenne.
“The ensemble of the chateaux and parks of Potsdam is an exceptional artistic achievement whose eclectic and evolutive features reinforce its uniqueness: […] a series of architectural and landscaping masterpieces have been built within a single space, illustrating opposing and reputedly irreconcilable styles without detracting from the harmony of a general composition, designed progressively over time. […]” (I) “Potsdam-Sanssouci […] is the crystalization of a great number of influences […]. A synthesis of art trends of European cities and courts in the 18th century, the castle and the park offer new models that they have greatly influenced the development of the monumental arts and the organization of space east of the Oder.” (II) The site is “an outstanding example of architectural creations and landscaping development associated with the monarchic concept of power within Europe.” (IV)
- Slavic tribes occupied the site of Potsdam in the 10th century, and a castle was constructed there under the Ascanian Dynasty in the 12th century.
- In the Middle Ages, the settlement of the Hohenzollerns in the Brandenburg plain was a turning point in Posdam’s history. In 1617, they constructed a castle in Potsdam, and this became their residence.
- After the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), the city was reconstructed under Frederick William (1620-1688), who also erected a palace there. The Huguenots and the Dutch, who poured into the city following the Edict of Potsdam of 1685, were also associated with Potsdam’s economic boom. Under Frederick William I (1713-1740), the city’s military function was strengthened and a French Church and a Dutch quarter were constructed.
- Frederick II (1740-1786) led Potsdam to its heyday. It became the de facto capital of Prussia. The King of Prussia, who was passionate about the arts and letters, was the main agent in the development of the Sanssouci Park and Palace. After the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), he erected a number of monuments, including the New Palace (1769).
- In the 19th century, Frederick William IV (1840-1861) added several monuments and gardens to the Sanssouci Park. Other ensembles of gardens and parks have since enhanced the site; these include the Neue Garten, Babelsberg, Glienicke, and Pfaueninsel.