LANGHANS, Carl Gotthard
(b. 1732, Landeshut, 1808, Grüneiche)

Nocturnal view

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

King Frederick William II of Prussia (reigned 1786-97) decided to make Berlin a cultural centre dominated by German artists. Among the architects he called to Berlin were Carl Gotthard Langhans and David Gilly, who, with Heinrich Gentz, created a severe but inventive style in the 1790s that was indebted to Ledoux as well as to Johann Winckelmann's call for a return to the spirit of ancient Greek architecture. The great early monument of the Berlin school was the Brandenburg Gate (1789-93) by Langhans. Distantly inspired by the propylaea on the Acropolis in Athens, it was the first of the ceremonial Doric gateways to rise in modern Europe.

Langhans designed the Brandenburg Gate on the model of the propylaea on the Acropolis in Athens. Just as in Pericles's day the citizens of Athens entered the shrines on the Acropolis through the ancient gate, so the citizens of Berlin were to cross the threshold into the new Athens on the Spree through the Brandenburg Gate.

In accordance with contemporary taste, Langhans added Attic bases to the Doric columns. In 1806, Johann Gottfried Schadow's Quadriga on the top was carted off to Paris by Napoleon, only to return in triumph in 1814. Since then, the Brandenburg Gate has become a national monument.