European Architecture Series
Carl Gotthard Langhans

Biography of German Neoclassical Architect.

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Brandenburg Gate, Berlin (1789-94)
One of Europe's most famous
examples of classicism in art.

Carl Gotthard Langhans (1732-1808)


Carl Gotthard Langhans' Architecture
Brandenburg Gate, Berlin
Other Leading Neoclassical Architects

For a short guide to terminology
see: Architecture Glossary.

Carl Gotthard Langhans' Architecture

A master of several different styles, the Silesian builder Carl Gotthard Langhans was one of the greatest architects in Germany to move away from Baroque architecture and adopt the new idiom of Neoclassical architecture, which was later popularized in Prussia by his successor Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841). But although the first to introduce Greek structural designs to Berlin, he continued to employ Baroque designs as well as those derived from Andrea Palladio (1508-80), leader of Venetian Renaissance Architecture (c.1550). After being appointed Chief Building Officer (Oberbaurat) in Breslau, he designed numerous Palladian-style buildings inspired by Wilhelm Freiherr von Erdmannsdorff's work at Schloss Worlitz. In 1788, Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia (1786–97) called Langhans to Berlin in order to design new buildings for the Prussian capital. It was here that Langhans created one of the most famous monuments of neoclassical art, the internationally renowned Brandenburg Gate (1789–94), based on the Athenian Propylaea. The gate became the model for von Klenze's Propylaen, on the Konigsplatz, Munich (1846–60). Langhans also designed a number of theatres, including the severely neoclassical German National Theatre, Potsdam (1795), and the Royal Theatre, Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin (1800; destroyed by fire 1817). In addition, he also designed the Anatomical Theatre (1790) for the Berlin Veterinary school. His contribution to Friedrich II's Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin was the Belvedere Schlosspark (1788-90), one of his best examples of Baroque building design. Langhans remains an extremely important contributor to late 18th century architecture (1750 on).


Born in Landeshut, Silesia, Langhans was not formally trained in architecture: instead, he studied law and mathematics at the technical college in Halle (1753-57), while teaching himself the principles of building design as explained by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius (active, 1st century BCE), author of the handbook De Architectura (On Architecture), and by the Neoclassical historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-68). In 1764, he gained his first recognition as a designer for his work on the Protestant church in Grosse-Glogau, and was appointed building inspector for Count Hatzfeld, in Breslau. This association with the aristocracy led to his introduction at the royal court of Prussia, in Berlin, and his first royal commission: the stairwell in Castle Rheinsberg (1766). In 1768-9, sponsored by his patron Count Hatzfeld, he went on a European Grand Tour, visiting Rome, Paris and London. (He later visited England, Holland, Belgium, and France at the expense of the king.) On his return, he continued his work in Breslau, designing an extension for the Palais Hatzfeld (1765-75; now destroyed), the Samotwor Palace (1776–81); and the Mielzynski Palace, Pawlowice (1779–87). In 1788, he moved to Berlin where - along with architects David Gilly and Heinrich Gentz - he entered the service of King Friedrich Wilhelm II, under orders to design a series of new buildings for the city, reflecting Johann Winckelmann's call for a return to the spirit of classical monumentality. Over the next two decades, at the behest of the king, he created several landmark buildings in the Prussian capital, including the Brandenburg Gate (1789–94).

The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)

This former city gate - the sole survivor of the original eighteen entrances to Berlin - was the city's first structure to be inspired by Greek architecture. Modelled on the propylaeum from the Acropolis in Athens, its entablature is based on elements of the Parthenon (447-422 BCE). Rebuilt by Langhans as a triumphal arch, its five openings are separated by Doric columns and topped by a bronze statue of the Goddess of Victory driving a 4-horse chariot (cast by Johann Schadow 1764-1850). It stands one block south of the Reichstag building, at the junction of Unter den Linden and Ebertstrasse. The Brandenburg Gate is the main entry to the famous avenue of linden trees (Unter den Linden) leading to the royal palace. The monument suffered major damage during World War II, but is now fully restored was fully restored thanks to the Berlin Monument Conservation Foundation.

Other Leading Neoclassical Architects

Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841)
Leo von Klenze (1784-1864)
See also: German Art 19th Century.

Jacques Germain Soufflot (1713-80)
Claude Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806)
Jean Chalgrin (1739-1811)

Charles Cameron (1745-1812)

Juan de Villanueva (1739-1811)

John Nash (1752-1835)
Sir John Soane (1753-1837)
Sir Robert Smirke (1780-1867)

United States
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
William Thornton (1759-1828)
Benjamin Latrobe (1764-1820)
Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844)

See also: Roman Architecture (c.400 BCE - 400 CE).


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