Room 9

A Kindred Place

The Cities and Countryside of Brandenburg

A former city of the Margraviate of Brandenburg and the current state capital: Brandenburg an der Havel in 2017. The aerial photo shows the old town, the new town and the cathedral island district (Dominsel). An abundance of water flows in what was the most important medieval city in the greater Berlin and Brandenburg area.
GeoBasis-DE / LGB, dl-de / by-2-0

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.

Berlin’s economy and transport network stretch far beyond the city limits. Greater Berlin extends out to the Nauen line, a circle of towns that surrounds Berlin and encompasses Oranienburg, Bernau, Strausberg, Fürstenwalde, Königs Wusterhausen, Zossen, Seddin, Werder and Nauen. It has an estimated area of 250,000 hectares and a population of 4.75 million.

Berlin is home to countless people working in industries based outside the city. At the same time, large numbers of people living outside Berlin commute into the city for work. They live in Potsdam, Borgsdorf, Birkenwerder and Königs Wusterhausen, among others. The economies and people of ­Berlin and the province of Brandenburg are closely connected.

Berlin faces a serious constitutional problem in creating a link between the Berlin city administration and the Brandenburg provincial administration. The political borders of the imperial capital don’t match the reality on the ground. The economies and traffic networks of Berlin and the province of Brandenburg are inextricably intertwined.

The Berlin city administration and Brandenburg provincial administration cannot work side by side; they must work together. Merging is in the best interests of both parties. […] With goodwill on both sides, it will be possible to find a way to work together.

Gustav Böß,
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.

The Welfare Forum was built between 1929 and 1930 according to plans designed by Karl Erbs and Willi Ludewig. The forum consisted of an administration and therapy building for a health insurance company, a gymnasium and a swimming pool. The plans to build a school and apartment blocks were never carried out. The Welfare Forum was a model of local urban development and a shining example of the New Objectivity architectural movement.
Photo: Heiko Hesse, Brandenburg an der Havel

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.

An undated photo of Potsdam’s Old Market Square. The now demolished university of applied sciences is on the left. Small-scale buildings based on historical models stand in its place.
IRS (Erkner) / Scientific Collection, D1_12_2-003

Potsdam: City of Science

A photo of Albert Einstein Science Park on Telegrafenberg hill in Potsdam from 2010. Numerous scientific facilities have been established at the park, with some dating as far back as 1874. Today it is home to internationally renowned institutes for climate and geoscience research.
Photo: Philipp Meuser

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

The cultural quarter borders the Tiefer See, pictured here in 2011. The Hans Otto Theatre, the headquarters of the Federal Foundation for Building Culture and many other cultural institutions can be found here.
Photo: Philipp Meuser

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

A residential complex at Schillerplatz, painted by Hans Klohß in the 1930s. The complex was developed by the WBG housing cooperative, which was founded in 1935. The city promoted the construction of the 400 small apartments, absorbing the construction costs and selling the land for a low price.
Potsdam Museum – Forum for Art & History

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

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.

This open-air shopping centre is located in the heart of Hohen Neuendorf, just south of the town hall. It opened in 2006 and is pictured here in 2019.
Photo: Harald Bodenschatz
The Himmelspagode Chinese restaurant opened in 2002 and is pictured here in 2019. The building was modelled after the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and attracts visitors from across the region. It is located to the north of the town hall.
Photo: Harald Bodenschatz
The construction site of the new town hall complex in September 2019. The existing edifice is visible in the centre of the photo and the new town hall is on the left. Other buildings forming part of the complex and the open spaces surrounding it are set to be completed in 2020.
Photo: Harald Bodenschatz

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!

A vacant barracks building in Krampnitz in 2017. The listed barracks buildings from the 1930s are to be converted into residential buildings.
Photo: André Winternitz, rottenplaces
The ruins of the former army uniforms office complex in Bernau in 2019. The complex was built between 1939 and 1942 and used by the Wehrmacht to produce and store uniforms from 1941 to 1945. After the war, Soviet forces used the facility as a supply depot. The main warehouse at Schwanebecker Chaussee is pictured here.
Photo: Harald Bodenschatz
The former army uniforms office complex in Bernau in 2019. The vacant wasteland is located right next to the A11 motorway.
Photo: Harald Bodenschatz
The Pankebogen development on Schönfelder Weg under construction in September 2019. A small part of the park, which is yet to be designed, is visible in the foreground. It will extend along the Panke river between the old town and the new residential development.
Photo: Harald Bodenschatz

Rural Charm

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.

The Water Landscape:
It’s Not Just for Recreation

The importance of a city’s surrounding area for the water supply has long been underestimated. Climate change, longer periods of drought and heavy rain storms have brought the importance of water, and indeed safeguarding drinking water, to the fore in Europe.

Aerial photo of the Münchehofe waste-water treatment plant in 2019. The plant is a pilot project for energy-efficient water treatment and is operated by Berliner Wasserbetriebe, Berlin’s water supply and waste-water disposal company.
Photo: Robert Grahn; Euroluftbild, no. 427645