More Architectural Archive

Hans Scharoun, Musikhalle, about 1922, Photograph: Academy of Arts Architectural Archive

Collecting documentary evidence of an architectural kind goes back to the early years of the Academy of Arts. In appointing the sculptor and master builder Andreas Schlüter to his court in 1694, the Elector Friedrich III, later King Friedrich I, succeeded in forging close ties between a famous and highly active artist on the one hand and the city of Berlin on the other. The extension of the Stadtschloss on the most modern architectural principles contributed largely to the reputation of the royal seat as a new centre of art and architecture. 

The Archive preserves a package of architectural drawings from the end of the eighteenth century, by which time the Academy of Arts had established itself as a training institute. Contemporary ideas of classically based architecture are reflected in a model by the Roman architect Antonio Chichi and masterly drawings by architects such as Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Friedrich Gilly and Heinrich Gentz.

Up to the Second World War architects, like creative artists, were normal members of the Academy; a separate Architecture Section was founded by the architect and first post-war president of the West Berlin Academy, Hans Scharoun, in 1955. He also encouraged the systematic collection of documents on architectural history, particularly those relating to the architectural avant-garde of the early twentieth century. Thus, along with Scharoun’s archive, the Architectural Archive contains holdings from the 1920s which are of high value both for architectural history and theory, in the artistic estates of Hugo Häring, Hans and Wassili Luckhardt, Alfons Anker, the brothers Bruno und Max Taut, Paul Baumgarten, Werner Hebebrand, Adolf Behne and others. A unique series of acquisitions is formed by the expressionist watercolours and drawings of  Hans Scharoun, the Luckhardt brothers, Erich Mendelsohn, Hermann Finsterlin and Bruno Taut, whose “alpine architecture” deserves special mention. The documents on architectural theory of the “Glass Chain,” of the association of architects known as “The Ring,” and of the two artists’ associations, the November Group and the Arbeitsrat für Kunst, enrich these illustrative documents by adding a host of theoretical ideas.

Numerous artists left Germany during the National Socialist period. These included architects represented in the Architectural Archive by their artistic estates. Bruno Taut went to Japan, Konrad Wachsmann to the USA, Thilo Schoder emigrated to Norway, Harry Rosenthal and Julius Posener to Palestine. Only the last two returned to Germany.

Berlin in the twentieth century was a city of ruins and destruction, which are reflected all too clearly in the city’s profile and architecture. A further focus taken by the holdings is that of the planning documents for post-war Berlin, characterised by a struggle to find a new image for the city, new architectural forms, and a new approach to life. If the debates about “new building” began in the 1920s, the records, plans and photographs after 1945 witness new and controversial debates, held in a divided Germany, but particularly in Berlin. Werner Düttmann, Hermann Henselmann, Helmut Hentrich, Kurt Junghanns, Kurt Liebknecht, Peter Pfankuch, Bernhard Pfau, Julius Posener, Harry Rosenthal, Walter Rossow, Jürgen Sawade, Thilo Schoder and Konrad Wachsmann are just a few examples of architects based in Berlin whose archives provide a valuable store of ideas about architectural history. In its architectural and political ramifications, overlaps and divisions, the research in this area is still only only beginning.

The Architectural Archive collects architectural documents which are not explicitly related to Berlin. Designs found in the estates of various architects have been a force in history at an international level. The archives of Friedrich Spengelin, Manfred Sack, Edgar Wisniewski, Hans Busso von Busse, Szyzskowitz Kowalski from Graz, and drawings from the architectural group of Haus Rucker Co are currently under incorporation. Surviving documents of Mark Braun, the international architect who died young and was a pupil of Norman Foster, have recently been contributed to the Archive.

An architectural archive also preserves structural ideas and designs which have never appeared in a cityscape. The Academy of Arts Architectural Archive has thus also become a place of unfulfilled possibilities. In this way it is different from archives of the visual arts. Here, unlike in a museum, we are preserving and presenting the entire documentation for many a building: the first sketch and its variations, drawings up to the final construction plan, models, correspondence between those engaged in the building, photographs of the finished work, and finally publications covering every aspect of the building.

The material which has reached the Archive since German reunification is increasingly being saved on electronic data carriers. Fewer and fewer architects draw by hand; building plans are often coordinated almost exclusively via the internet. And, because of this, the processes of design are becoming irrevocably more reliant on technology, since today, almost without exception, blueprints are produced digitally. The potential for archiving electronic documents is a question currently under debate. The Architectural Archive still goes by Mies van der Rohe’s remark: “My thoughts guide my hand, and my hand shows whether the idea is worth anything.”

(Stand 8.08.2011)