Essential Architecture-  Berlin

Brandenburg Gate


Carl Gotthard Langhans


Pariser Platz, central Berlin (on Unter den Linden)


1788 to 1791


Greek Revival




Image copyright Tim Devlin.
  Ronald Reagan giving a speech on June 12, 1987
  Soldier of the Polish Army during the Battle of Berlin
  The Quadriga atop the Brandenbrug Gate
The Brandenburg Gate (German: Brandenburger Tor) is a triumphal arch and the symbol of Berlin, Germany. It is located at 52°30'58.4?N, 13°22'38.7?E on the Pariser Platz and is the only remaining gate of a series through which one formerly entered Berlin. One block to its north lies the Reichstag. It constitutes the monumental termination of Unter den Linden, the renowned boulevard of linden trees which led directly to the royal residence. It was commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm II as a sign of peace and built by Carl Gotthard Langhans from 1788 to 1791.

The Brandenburg Gate consists of twelve Greek Doric columns, six on each side. This allows for five roadways, although originally ordinary citizens were only allowed to use the outer two. Above the gate is the Quadriga, consisting of the goddess of peace, driving a four-horse chariot in triumph. The gate stands 26 m (65 ft) high, 65.5 m (213 ft) wide and 11 m (36 ft) thick.

The design of the gate was based on the Propylea, the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Berlin had a long history of classicism: first classicist Baroque and then a neo-Palladian, but this was the first Greek revival neo-classical structure in Berlin, which would become the Spreeathen ("Athens on the River Spree') by the 1830s, shaped by the severe neoclassicism of architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel.

While the main design of the Brandenburg Gate has remained the same since it was completed, the gate has played varying roles in Germany's history. First, Napoleon took the Quadriga to Paris in 1806 after conquering Berlin. When it returned to Berlin in 1814, the statue exchanged her olive wreath for the Iron Cross and became the goddess of victory. When the Nazis rose to power, they used the gate to symbolize their power. The only structure left standing in the ruins of Pariser Platz in 1945, apart from the ruined Academy of Fine Arts, the gate was restored by the East Berlin and West Berlin governments. However, in 1961, the gate was closed when the Berlin Wall was built.

In 1963 U.S. President John F. Kennedy visited the Brandenburg Gate. The Soviets hung large banners across it so he could not see the East Berlin side. "The German question will remain open as long as the Brandenburg Gate is closed" was how the Mayor of West Berlin, Richard von Weizsäcker, described the situation in the early 1980s. On June 12, 1987 U.S. President Ronald Reagan delivered a speech ("Tear down this wall") to the people of West Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate, yet it was also audible on the East Berlin side of the Wall.

Finally, when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the gate symbolized freedom and the unity of the city. It re-opened on 22 December 1989 when the West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl walked through to be greeted by the East German Prime Minister, Hans Modrow.

On July 12, 1994 U.S. President Bill Clinton addressed a speech to the people of Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate talking mainly about peace in post-Cold War Europe.

On December 21, 2000 works began to once again refurbish the Brandenburg Gate, this time using lasers to clean off soot and grit. More than 1,000 pieces of stone were also replaced. Estimated cost: 3,000,000 USD in private funding.

There is some local controversy in Berlin over the fact that there is a Starbucks within a few yards of the gate. It is seen as a corporate intrusion upon a national treasure.