Berlin water art

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The old watchtower (G) on the northwest corner of the electoral residence in Berlin served as a water tower and at the same time housed the mint. Detail from the Berlin view by Matthäus Merian from 1652.

The Berliner Wasserkunst was a system for the water supply in Berlin , as a water art consisting of a pumping station with a water tank on a tower and a wooden pipe system. It was designed and built in 1572 by Johann von Blankenfelde on behalf of Elector Johann Georg . In 1706 the water tower collapsed as the last remaining part of the complex.


The Berliner Wasserkunst was one of the earliest plans by Elector Johann Georg, who came to power in 1571 through the death of his father, Elector Joachim II . Even before he took office, he was a great fan of water features and garden design and is believed to have developed the first plans for the later pleasure garden at this time . However, since his father had left him 4.7 million thalers in debt, he was initially unable to carry out his plans. In order to pay off the debt, Johann Georg developed several ideas, including one with which he wanted to supply the citizens of Berlin with water using a water art. To what extent this should also meet the requirements for running water features in the later pleasure garden is unclear, but it is assumed that this idea played a role.

Construction of the water art

The Berlin councilor and mayor Johann von Blankenfelde was commissioned to build the facility. First of all, an underground, relatively flat network of pipes made of hollowed-out tree trunks was laid. Water dispensers with taps, which should also be used for fire-fighting purposes, were installed at the water extraction points in the courtyards of the affiliated citizens and on some streets.

The plan by Johann Gregor Memhardt from 1652 shows the tower of the Berlin "Wasserkunst" at the northwest corner of the castle area with the water supply from the "Cöllnischen" arm of the Spree.

The water tower was formed by a former watchtower , which stood at today's castle bridge (formerly the dog bridge). This had a footprint of 13.7 × 14.5 meters and was 14 meters high. A three-storey structure with an area of ​​10.4 × 11 meters and a height of another 18 meters (without structures such as a hood, lantern and top) was placed on top. So the water tank was about 30 meters high, which could be used to build up pressure. The water was pumped up by a pressure unit, which was operated by a submersible water wheel installed on the east side . A new trench was dug for the drive water, which was provided with a dam (ark). The ditch ended at the tower and was probably diverted back into the Spree. The water tank probably had a capacity of around 50 cubic meters.

At the end of 1572, the plant was ready for operation and was put into operation on December 16 of that year with a contract for the maintenance and financing of the plant. The city should pay 20 thalers for each connection to the system, plus an additional 10 thalers per year for the maintenance of the system. An art master with an annual salary of 27 thalers and a free apartment was hired for maintenance. It was also decided to punish violations of the water abstraction regulations with a penalty of 10 thalers.

The pleasure garden

In 1573, Elector Johann Georg began building his pleasure garden, but no fountains are documented for this garden. This garden was run by Desiderius Corbinianus ,

"To manage our gardens with two servants and two maids and to build and prepare a new pleasure garden ..."

Probably after a year a few smaller fountains were operated, which got their water from the water art.

The decay of the plant

The system was first criticized as early as 1579. Up to this point in time the system had probably worked very well, but this year the elector threatened the city with a fine of 200 thalers, with which it was

"Should be reminded of the course of water art, its course has, improved and will be preserved."

The council drew up a counter-report on July 24, 1579 and wrote that although they wanted to take care of the wood for renewing the pipes, they could not pay for the drilling. In addition, there was a loss of income because many citizens left the water supply if they were inherited or sold and others no longer wanted to pay the money. Because of high taxes, they could not see why they should pay for untreated river water from the tap if they had the opportunity to find and use good groundwater themselves through a well at a shallow depth.

In 1580 the elector warned that the renovation should be carried out again without success, at which point the pipes were probably already so rotten that they could no longer be repaired. So the wood continued to rot and the pipe work of the water art could not be used for a short time. It was not until 1618 that his grandson Johann Sigismund , Elector from 1608 to 1619, asked for the lines to be repaired again so that they could at least be used for fire extinguishing; even this appeal was ineffective.

Due to this situation, the tower only supplied the facilities of the pleasure garden. For this area of ​​water art, renovations to water art were documented in 1632 and 1639, from 1640 the pleasure garden itself was equipped with further ponds and fountains, including from 1647 a reclining colossal figure depicting the Roman sea god Neptune with a water-spouting trident .

Redesign of the water tower to the mint tower

Since the water art tower was still fully operational even after the water pipes had collapsed, the royal mint was relocated to and in the tower in 1630. The old water wheel was no longer repairable and could no longer operate the cutting and embossing machine. So a workshop building was built on the water tower and the machines were probably placed in the unused rooms of the tower. The tower thus became the "Münzturm", the moat the "Münzgraben".

As Elector Friedrich III. became King Friedrich I in Prussia in 1701 , he ordered a renovation of the Berlin Palace and a renovation of the Mint Tower. This was to be increased to 91 meters and equipped with a clock, chimes, bells and a new water tank. For this purpose, the mint workshops were relocated and the foundation of the tower was reinforced. In 1704 the building leaned to the west and got cracks, whereupon in 1705 this side was supported by a 13 meter high wall block. Another support took place in 1706 and the west side was also supported by wall pillars. No further construction was required and a commission agreed on the proposal made by the architect Andreas Schlueter on July 18, 1706 to demolish the tower to a height of 36 meters and use it as a viewing platform. Before the king could give his consent, the tower had collapsed. In the same year the now functionless mint pit was filled in.


  • F. Adler: From Andreas Schlueter's life. (The construction and demolition of the mint tower 1701–1706) . In: Centralblatt der Bauverwaltung . Vol. 1883, pp. 2-4, 13-16, 22-24.
  • Hilmar Bärthel: On the history of water art Berlin . In: Berlin monthly magazine ( Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein ) . Issue 5, 2000, ISSN  0944-5560 , p. 4–13 ( ).
  • Guido Hinterkeuser: The Berlin Palace. The renovation by Andreas Schlueter. Siedler Verlag, Berlin 2003.

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