Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841)
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz Sypniewska

... von Schinkel Coat of Arms ...
Bust of Schinkel from
Friends of Schinkel Website

Karl Friedrich Schinkel was a famous Prussian architect, painter, and set designer. Karl was born March 13, 1781, in Neuruppin, about 17 miles northwest of Berlin. His parents were Johan Cuno Christoph Schinkel and Dorothea Rose, daughter of a merchant. Schinkel was the second born of five children. A fire blazed through Neuruppin, in 1787, and took Karl's father's life. Schinkel's father was a local Lutheran pastor and inspector of schools and churches.

In 1794, his widowed mother moved her family to Berlin. It was said that the work of Friedrich Gilly (1772-1800) so influenced the sixteen year old Karl Friedrich Schinkel (then a student of Berlin's Gymnasium zum Graven Kloster) that he gave up his ambitions in music and painting for that of architecture. Gilly subscribed to the ideas of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the art historian, who believed that:

"The sole path to modern greatness lay in the study of the ancient." Greek architecture was the pinnacle of this concept with its massive stonework, masonry, and Greek columns (as idealized in the Partheon) became a "new" Teutonic style." Wickelmann's words influenced Schinkel's work.

Karl Schinkel began his architectural training in Berlin, the Prussian capital, in 1799, and lived in the Gilly household. He learned from both architects David (1748-1808) and Friedrich Gilly (David's son), who originally lived in Pomerania. The Gillys were a sort of surrogate family. In 1800, Schinkel lost both his mother and mentor, Friedrich Gilley. When Karl entered the General Architectural Training Institute, founded by David Gilly, he immediately became a member of their circle of architects. The Gillys taught him about building in brick and to appreciate the aesthetics of the Gothic style. The Gillys taught ideas from the French architects of the Revolutionary period: Claude Nicolas Ledoux and Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand.

Antonin - The Radziwill's Hunting Lodge,
thought to be the work of Schinkel,
was built from 1822-1824 at Ostrow, near Poznan,
Poland. This house was built for Prince Antoni
Radziwill, governor of the Grand Poznan Duchy.

The Radziwills had another house near Pempowo called Antoni. To see this home CLICK HERE

While in the household of Prince Radziwill and Princess Luise of Russia, a youthful Schinkel was introduced to one of Berlin's liveliest salons. Here he met Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand Solger (1780-1819) who would remain one of his closest friends and intellectual mentors. Solger worked at Berlin University as a lecturer on aestetics. Chopin stayed in Antonin in 1828.

Schinkel inspired many lasting friendships in his lifetime. He and the Gillys even became freemasons together. Schinkel continued commissions begun after Friedrich Gilly's death in 1800, at age 28, and worked in Gilly's tradition. In 1800, Schinkel designed a museum. Another one of his early works was the Temple of Romona in Potsdam. Schinkel worked on the Temple while still training. By 1801, he was independent architect.

In 1803, he traveled to Italy where he admired exposed brick architecture. Here, in Italy, he received praise for his painting abilities, which he learned from Joseph Anton Koch (1768-1839) and Gottlieb Schick (1776-1812).

Schinkel painting of a medieval city at the river, 1815
, from Staaliche Museum-Berlin

In 1805-1806, Schinkel designed Tikbein Manor near Stettin for Gilly. After 1806, Schinkel devoted himself to painting and printmaking. He explored panoramas, dioramas, stage sets, and window designs. This development came when old Prussia was defeated by Napoleon's troops in 1806, and Schinkel could no longer work as an architect. However, he made enough money, in this time period, to marry Suzanne Berger (1782-1861), a merchant's daughter from Stettin, in 1809, and his family grew rapidly. In 1809, Queen Luise commisssioned him to redecorate the interiors of the Royal Palace in Berlin and Charlottenberg. She died July 18, 1810 and he also made her memorial. Frederick Wilhelm III did not build anything new during his 43-year reign. He basically left Potsdam Palace as it was. By November 1811 Schinkel moved from quarters he and his family shared with Ferdinand Gropius and his family. Ferdinand's father, Wilhelm Gropius, operated the cafe below, and owned the apartments above, so he let his son, Ferdinand and Karl's repective families live there until they could save money to move on.

Potsdam Roman Baths (1829-1836) Charlottenhof

However, around this same time, Wilhelm von Humboldt approached Frederick William III about Schinkel's talent. Karl Schinkel returned to Berlin, in 1813, and found himself as architect for the State. From 1813-1815, after the Wars of Liberation Schinkel designed a memorial that was done in the style of medieval Germany (much like the Strasbourg Cathedral). A quote from Schinkel:

"Architecture is the continuation of nature in her constructive activity. This activity is conducted through a natural product: Mankind."

Glienicke Palace (1835-1837)

Even though Frederick William III did not build, William IV made many changes at Potsdam. Landscape designer Peter Joseph Linne worked with Karl Schinkel in 1816, and both men wanted their work to enhance nature and society (see quote above). Chancellor Karl August von Hardenburg was in charge of the Prussian Landscape Gardening Department. From 1820-1822 in Schob New Hardenburg, known as "the most palatial of his country estates," was designed by Schinkel. Neu (New) Hardenburg welded Karl Schinkel's friendship with Hardenburg's son-in-law, Herman Furst von Puckler-Muskau (1785-1871). When Hardenburg died, in 1822, the work at Glienicke stopped until Prince Carl bought the property for himself and his future wife, Marie of Saxe-Weimar. The manor house at Glienicke was built between 1824-1827. It was built in the style of an Italian villa. Another design was the lighthouse at Cap Arcona (1825-1826) on the island of Rugen, in the Baltic Sea.

Lighthouse on Rugen Island.

In the 1830's, Schinkel renewed his interest in history and archeaology. He studied Pliny's villas, Christian basilicas, and medieval castles on the Rhine as was the passion of Friedrich Wilhelm IV, his patron. All Schinkel's projects reflect what he studied, including: The expansion of Charlottenhof; rebuilding Berlin Cathedral, as an early Christian basilica; and restoring Stolzenfels Castle in the Rhine Valley.

Schinkel's protege was Ludwig Persius and he and Karl drew up plans (in 1833) to construct a palace for Prince Wilhelm and is bride Augusta of Saxe-Weimer. Schinkel worked for the Prussian state from 1810-1841, when he died. During this time, Berlin as transformed from an old 18th century city to an international metropolis, the third largest in Europe. Karl Schinkel was both architect and designer, a concept that would not make its mark until the 20th century.

In 1837, Karl Friedrich Schinkel wrote:

"Finally, I hope I may be allowed to remark that recent inventions and improvements enabling works of art to be duplicated faithfully, easily, and safely may properly be used to give industry a direction in which beauty is as important as utility. I cannot, as many do, regret the mechanical process that turns the artist's attention increasingly towards the intellectual element in the production of a work of art; something that no machinery can replace. Anything that a machine can imitate and duplicate perfectly is no longer in the realm of art. But as a work of art can be mechanically duplicated both faithfully and with ease, and this distributed to all classes of society, if the knowledge of that work need no longer be acquired solely in museums or in those private collections to which access is difficult, then we may hope that here and there one of the seeds thus broadcast will take root and eventually bear fruit."

Thoroughout the 1830's Schinkel was troubled by illness, and he made many trips to the spa towns of Bad Kissingen and Marienbad. He returned to Berlin on September 7, 1839. The next day he had a crippling stroke, which left him bedridden.

Schinkel became seriously ill again in June 1840 and died on October 12, 1841, in Berlin. It was reported that Schinkel took a walk around Berlin with his son-in-law, Alfred, in assistence, right before his death, so as to remember what he did with his life. This walk spent all his energies, and he died upon return to his home. The tomb of Karl Friedrich Schinkel is in the Corotheenstaedt cemetary in the Chaussesstrasse, Berlin center. His son-in-law, Alfred Freicherr von Wolzogen, was married to Karl's daughter, Elizabeth and Alfred had some of her father's works published post-mortem.

After 1841, many architects followed the direction of Schinkel by way of his former students and colleagues. There were: Ferdinand von Arnim, Ludwig Ferdinand Hesse, Eduard Knoblauch, Ludwig Persius, Albert Dietrich Schadow, Johann Heinrich Strack, and Frederick August Stuler. Friedrich Ludwig Persius (b 1803)(his protege) and August Stuler (b. 1800) were the new Royal Architects.

During Schinkel's life, his work spread from Berlin to the Rhineland and Poland. He may indeed have worked on the designs for one of the Sypniewski's manor houses called Sypniewo, and quite possibly had a part in the restoration of at least one of the Runge/Runge-Sypniewski family's homes. on the isle of Rugen. These proofs I am currently working on. The circumstantial evidence shows that at least one Sypniewski daughter married into the Radziwill family. If their hunting lodge was built by Schinkel, then it is possible that they may have given him work from other branches of the family. Of course, for now, this is conjecture.

The only other English work on Schinkel (aside from those I have listed) is Hermann Pundt's Schinkel's Berlin: A Study in Environmental Planning. Harvard University Press, 1972.

Schinkel was also have said to have designed the spiked helmet of the royal dynasty of Prussia - the Pickelhaube that was used later by the military ( in 1842)after his death, and by the police force in another variation.


Bergdall, Barry. Karl Friedrich Schinkel: An Architecture for Prussia. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1994.

Streidt, Gert and Peter Feirabend (editors). Prussia: Art and Architecture. Cologne: Konemann, 1999.


Quotes of Friedrich Schinkel
Karl Friedrich Schinkel, The Last Great Architect
Schinkel's Altes Museum Architecture Essay
From Prussia With Love [Schinkel]
Part Two about Karl Friedrich Schinkel


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