A Kindred Place
The Cities and Countryside of Brandenburg
Berlin is more than just the city. After the Thirty Years War, Friedrich Wilhelm, the Great Elector, expanded his new residence in the Margraviate of Brandenburg. There were already palaces in Oranienburg and Potsdam, and Charlottenburg Palace was soon added to their number. However, the Prussian kings mainly focused on developing Potsdam and they formed a unique complex of palaces and parks in the city southwest of Berlin. While Potsdam has historically been seen as the daughter city of Berlin, Berlin’s mother city has largely been forgotten: the capital Brandenburg an der Havel, which was a city of the Margraviate of Brandenburg. It was the most important city in the region until the fifteenth century. There are other unique cities in Brandenburg, too. Whether in the immediate or more distant vicinity of Berlin, the state is full of emerging towns with long histories, and they all deserve far greater attention. All of these cities and towns in Brandenburg have long been part of the metropolis of Berlin. Their design shapes our shared future.
mayor of Greater Berlin from 1921 to 1929
Berlin Today, Berlin 1929
A Mother to Berlin: Brandenburg an der Havel
Brandenburg an der Havel is not just any town. Located to the west of Berlin, it is the oldest city of the former Margraviate of Brandenburg and it served as its capital until the late Middle Ages. The town is something of a mother to Berlin and a grandmother to Potsdam. It has three distinct residential areas: the old town, the new town and cathedral island. The three large churches and other medieval buildings testify to its importance. Brandenburg an der Havel became an industrial city in the last third of the nineteenth century. It was a centre of the architectural movement known as Neues Bauen, or New Objectivity, during the Weimar Republic. The old town, which had fallen into a chronic state of decline at the time of German reunification, underwent a successful urban regeneration programme and has been returned to its former glory. Today, Brandenburg an der Havel is one of seven cities in ring of cities that surrounds Berlin.
A Daughter of Berlin: Potsdam
Potsdam is many things: a work of art, a paradise, an Arcadia of the North. It’s history is closely linked to the House of Hohenzollern, and a sovereign ruler once resided here. Once a garrison city, today Potsdam has a multicultural population. It’s a young city, only beginning to gain in importance in the seventeenth century. It’s hard to imagine another German city that has been more heavily influenced by its links to royal power. The city ceased to serve as a residence of the Hohenzollern family in 1918 and lost its status as a garrison city in 1994. What makes the state capital of Brandenburg special today? The city has become an internationally recognised urban ensemble made up of different layers. Its palaces and gardens are a World Cultural Heritage Site designated by UNESCO. What’s more, it is a city of culture, education and science, all of which enrich it in an extraordinary way.
Potsdam: City of Science
Potsdam’s reputation as a centre of science was established in the late nineteenth century thanks to the scientific facilities located at Telegrafenberg hill. Following reunification, the facilities were further expanded, including those in the city’s Golm and Babelsberg districts.
Potsdam: City of Culture
Art, theatre, film and music: In the years since reunification, Potsdam has developed into a centre of culture with institutions of national and international renown. Many are located in the city’s cultural quarter.
Potsdam: A City to Live in
Potsdam has long been a special address. The city has been shaped by its residents and indeed by soldiers based there when it was a garrison city. It’s been a multicultural city since its earliest days, with immigrants settling in ethnic enclaves. More diverse communities have developed in the years since reunification.
A Small Town on the Outskirts:
Hohen Neuendorf sits between Birkenwerder and Frohnau in the Oberhavel district of Brandenburg, north of Berlin. The town was first documented in 1349 and was drawn into the growing city at the end of the nineteenth century after the construction of the Berlin Northern Railway. Hohen Neuendorf underwent significant development in the early years of the Nazi era and a new train station on the outer railway ring was built in the town during the German Democratic Republic. The town’s population grew significantly after reunification. Hohen Neuendorf’s most remarkable architectural feature is the collection of special buildings at the intersection of the arterial road to Oranienburg and the road to the S-Bahn station. The town hall, pagoda, Hotel Turm and shopping centre are all located here.
A New Life for Military Facilities
There is nowhere in Germany in the twentieth century with as many military facilities as the Berlin-Brandenburg region. Military facilities began to concentrate here in Prussian times and the number of facilities reached a first peak during the imperial period. A new peak was reached during the Nazi era and after the war, the region continued to be used as a major base for the Soviet army during the German Democratic Republic. It is estimated that around 100,000 hectares of land became available when Russian troops left Germany in 1994. Potsdam, Wünsdorf, Kummersdorf, Döberitz, Bernau, Beelitz and numerous other places in Brandenburg all had large military bases. A large portion of this land has now been repurposed into recreational areas, technology centres, social infrastructure facilities and, increasingly, housing. What were once barracks are now homes!
Brandenburg has many historical cities and military areas, but it also has unforgettable rural areas, including many on the outskirts of Berlin. Its villages, transport infrastructure, agricultural areas, recreational areas, commercial areas, water reservoirs and wind turbines are all shaped by the local environment. Urban and rural are not mutually exclusive, no more so than Berlin and Brandenburg are.