Silesian Architecture - Neo-Classicism and Historism

Neo-Classicism and Historism

After the Treaty of Hubertusburg, a long-lasting phase of political and economical stabilization led to building activities which lasted until the defeat of Prussia in 1806. The destroyed cities were rebuilt, Upper Silesia became industrialized and many defensive fortification were put up. In 1775 Silesia was split into two separate construction departments, Breslau and Glogau, which were headed by fully independent construction managers (Oberbaudirektoren). The most important of these managers, Karl Gotthard Langhans, developed its own unique neo-classical style, which was of European importance.

The sacral architecture was now dominated by the Protestant church. After 1763 the small modest churches of the past were gradually abandoned and large monumental churches were built. Groundbreaking for the development of these churches were the churches in Cosel by Joh.M. Pohlmann and K.G. Langhans and in Groß Wartenberg (Syców) by K.G. Langhans in 1785. The new standards of these neo-classical churches were soon adopted by the churches in Waldenburg (Wałbrzych), Reichenbach (Dzierżoniów) and Münsterberg (Ziębice). The building activities of the Catholic Church stagnated until the mid 19th century.

The residence architecture between 1740 and 1806 was marked by dynamic changes regarding styles and types. New town palaces however were rarely built. The most important one was Palais Hatzfeldt in Breslau, one of the first neo-classical buildings in Europe, designed 1764 by I. Ganevale and K.G. Langhans. Other palaces adopted the new style after 1770. The public initiatives affected mainly military buildings: monumental fortifications in Silberberg, Neisse and Glatz (Kłodzko) as well as new barracks in Breslau and Brieg. According to the welfare policy of Frederick II of Prussia new hospitals and workhouses were erected (Kreuzburg, Breslau), and with the beginning industrialization of Upper Silesia entire residential developments were planned.

New administration structures were adopted after the Prussian ministry for Silesia was closed in 1808 and the reforms by Heinrich Friedrich Karl vom und zum Stein and Karl August von Hardenberg were implemented. From now on every building project had to be accepted by the building inspection department, which itself was under the control of the royal police headquarters. Every town appointed its municipal architect and local building deputation controlled the technical aspects of every project. These principles were in effect until 1900.

After 1820 positive results of these reforms became visible as a new period of building activity began. Most of these activities were now carried out in the cities, which became dominant in the shaping of Silesia's architectural landscape. Dozens of theaters, houses for different associations, schools, hospitals or asylums were built. The most important artistical center was Breslau, and the most important Silesian architect until 1840 was Carl Ferdinand Langhans, son of Carl Gotthard and creator of the exchange, the theater, the loge "Friedrich zum goldenen Zepter" in Breslau and the theater in Liegnitz. A new type of apartment buildings began to evolve and the rich bourgeoisie began to live in large villas at the outskirts of the cities.

The architecture of that time was marked by a broad mix of several neo-classical styles, from Palladianism, revolutionary Neo-Classizism (Hoym mausoleum by Friedrich Gilly) in Dyhernfurt (Brzeg Dolny) or Palais Hohenlohe with the construction of the palace in Kamenz by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Summer residences for the king of Prussia and his court in Hirschberg valley were the most important phenomenon in the palace architecture, where more than 30 palaces, castles and manors formed a cultural landscape of outstanding importance. In the cities the town walls were razed (first 1807 in Breslau) and replaced by greens, among them the first public parks.

The fourth decade of the 19th century was a turning point in the history of the Silesian architecture. Frederick William IV of Prussia ascended the throne in 1840, Karl Friedrich Schinkel died in 1841 and Karl Ferdinand Langhans finally moved to Berlin. Neo-Classizism was slowly replaced by Historism, the Silesian architecture linked more and more with Berlin and with the rise of the Wilhelmine empire the local architecture became fully dominated by German art movements. Neo-Renaissance was soon adopted in two varieties, Italian and Northern- German, the latter being promoted as the "national style". This German Renaissance was mainly used at state-run building projects, for instance post offices. Palaces and self-governments were often built in neo- Baroque forms, whereas neo- Romanic did not became popular in Silesia.

The departure of Karl Ferdinand Langhans left a gap which was soon filled by architects from Berlin. The time until 1914 was now marked by a peculiar rivalry between the architects from Silesia and Berlin. Communal and private building projects carried out by Silesian architects clearly cited local traditions, whereas governmental building projects dominated by architects from Berlin showed stylistic concepts without Silesian characteristics. The state (king, emperor) became the client with the most prestige, on his initiative many administrational buildings (regional councils, archives), prisons, courts of justice, police buildings and academies were constructed. As the leader of the Protestant church the king also founded many churches. The Catholic Church was still one of the biggest principals, especially in Upper Silesia. In 1883 a bishopric building officer was created, the first one being Josef Ebers. Not only churches were erected, but also hospitals, schools and many other buildings; approximately 2.000 Protestant and Catholic institutions in the entire 19th century. After 1850 the Jews became the third important ecclesiastic client and built large and representative synagogues which rivaled the churches of the other denominations. The most spectacular example was the synagogue "Am Anger" in Breslau, constructed by Edwin Oppler in 1872. They also built many hospitals and care homes. The religious equalization of Protestants, Catholics and Jews, which was typical für the second half of the 19th century in Prussia, was now mirrored by the architectural landscape of Silesia.

Thanks to the Prussian reforms in the beginning of the 19th century the bourgeoisie became the dominant group and replaced the patriciate, which partially left their town palaces and concentrated on big industrial investments in Upper Silesia. The bourgeoisie also became the foremost patrons and consumers of the arts and initiated the construction of many theaters, museums or galleries, in addition they also gave an impetus to the beautification of the cities with parks and promenades. Their biggest achievement however was the construction of countless apartment buildings, which led to a rapid growth of the cities and the transition of Breslau to a metropolis. At the same time the division of the suburbs into living spaces for workmen, craftsmen, industry and rich middle classes took place. This however occurred only in Lower Silesia. Most towns in Upper Silesia did not have an old town center but often only one street, and they also did not have suburbs but chaoticly scattered small apartment buildings for workers (so called familoki), which were closely connected to the local coal mines. An exception was the workers colony in Nickischschacht and especially Gieschewald, built by Berlin architects Georg and Emil Zillmann for Gesellschaft Georg v. Giesche's Erben.

The opposite to the Upper Silesian industrial small towns represented the Lower Silesian spas in the Sudetes mountain range. Silesia was without a doubt scenically the most beautiful part of Prussia, which was the reason for the speedy development of several railway lines to the spas at the foothill of the mountains in the second half of the 19th century. These villages and towns, with its exclusive sanatoriums and hotels, were a prestigious field of work for architects from Breslau, but some of them, like Görbersdorf (the Silesian Davos), were also carried out by non- Silesians like Edwin Oppler from Hanover (although he was born in Silesia). After the royal court left Hirschberg valley (which is also a part of the Sudetes) the region became attractive for a number of famous people from the German intelligentsia, among them Nobel Prize winner Gerhart Hauptmann, whose villa in Agnetendorf (Jagniątków ) was designed by one of the best architects from Berlin, Hans Grisebach, or political economist Werner Sombart, who resided in a villa in Schreiberhau by Fritz Schumacher from Hamburg.

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