After Albrecht the Bear conquered the area in 1157, he had a German castle and church built on the market square. Exactly where almost 900 years later the rebuilt Potsdam State Parliament Palace and the Nicolaikirche with its huge dome are.
From the castle to the west one would still have a direct view along the Breite Straße as far as a hill near Golm – if it hadn’t been for the New Palais and then the GDR prefabricated buildings in between. And all the other things that only become really clear when you compare them from above.
Gerd Gauglitz, who has created a set of four Potsdam city maps from four epochs in his one-person publishing house in Kreuzberg, has specialized in this perspective – in an identical modern layout. The plans can be unfolded from the cover so that they are next to each other for direct comparison.
Gauglitz first created this aha effect in 2017 with a set of Berlin plans from four centuries and now repeated it with Potsdam. More precisely: with the royal Prussian arcadia, which stretches from the Pfaueninsel over the parks of Sacrow, Glienicke and Babelsberg to the New Palais and Charlottenhof.
For example, you can see that the Breite Straße has retained both its name and its course since the 18th century, when it was interrupted by a Havel bay that has now been filled in – where the famous mosque-style steam engine house is located, which has been in operation since 1843 makes the big fountain in Sanssouci Park bubble.
[Wenn Sie alle aktuellen Nachrichten live auf Ihr Handy haben wollen, empfehlen wir Ihnen unsere runderneuerte App, die Sie hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen können.]
In the first plan from 1786, the city is still a patch of about eight by eight streets on a good one square kilometer, surrounded by a city wall, which is supposed to prevent soldiers from deserting and traders from tax evasion.
All around fields with windmills, bounded to the southeast by the Havel, on the other bank of which the Nuthe meanders through marshy meadows. But the park of Sanssouci is already expanding in the west, half the size of the city, which according to the supplement had 19,000 inhabitants at that time – hardly more than a tenth of today’s population.
“I chose 1786 for the first card because it was Frederick the Great’s last year,” says Gauglitz. Hardly any other ruler shaped the development of Potsdam as much as the old Fritz: the castle with the vineyard terraces, the New Palais, the stone facades of town houses like the Barberini, which pepped up the previously modest town for fine society.
Nowawes, whose name – Czech for “New Village” – came from the Protestant weavers who had fled from Catholic Bohemia and was settled here by Friedrich Zwo as a textile supplier for the royal troops, was built a little off the shot halfway to Parforceheide .
On the second plan from 1912, Nowawes grew strongly, bounded to the north by the Babelsberg Park, which was created in the meantime, and cut to the south by the railway, in the vicinity of which the “Bioscope” film studio was founded in the building of a bankrupt artificial flower factory – the beginning of Babelsberg film history. Gauglitz concludes from the remote location: “You probably suspected that you would need a lot of space.”
[Was ist los in Brandenburg? Die Potsdamer Neuesten Nachrichten informieren Sie direkt aus der Landeshauptstadt. Mit dem neuen Newsletter Potsdam HEUTE sind Sie besonders nah dran. Hier geht’s zur kostenlosen Bestellung.]
This is how it happened, as the third plan from 1988 shows, in which Nowawes has long since become Babelsberg. The National Socialists had erased the Slavic name. Above all, however, the 1988 plan shows the enormous amount of space taken up by the border installations and parts of the city occupied by the Soviet Army: No more getting through on Bornstedter Feld, “Forbidden City” on Neuer Garten, walled shores at Griebnitzsee, ship lock in Jungfernsee, walled exclaves in stone pieces (West) and Klein Glienicke (East).
The Breite Strasse was named after the Weimar and GDR politician Wilhelm Külz, the Charlottenstrasse after Wilhelm Pieck, the Nauener after Friedrich Ebert – although it has remained until today. The once centrally located train station lost its connection to Berlin due to the wall, while the Pirschheide station in the far south has been chosen as the main train station.
In the 2020 plan, the fourth in the set, most of the wounds have healed. The castle was rebuilt on the old square – exactly where a previous building with the same orientation had been built around 1600, so that Breite Straße leads exactly to it as it has for centuries.
“Potsdam was the playground of the electors and kings,” summarizes Gauglitz when looking at his work. “What gardeners had to laboriously create elsewhere was naturally available here.”
[„Potsdam – Vier Stadtpläne im Vergleich“, erhältlich für 17,90 Euro auch im Tagesspiegel-Shop, Askanischer Platz 3, Mo.-Fr. 11-16 Uhr, auch online bestellbar.]
Those familiar with Prussian history will bend over the four cards with a knowing nod, while laypeople may frown. Gauglitz wrote a long accompanying text for them to open their eyes too.
For months he rummaged through archives, studied the Baedeker from 1910 and studied works such as Schropp’s “Special Map of the Government Districts Potsdam” published in 1888.
Yes, from Schropp, whose map shop, founded 278 years ago, is one of the oldest companies in Berlin today – and one of the most reliable supporters of Gauglitz’s ideas, which first inspire him in the loneliness of his backyard studio and then, based on experience, many who feel like Gauglitz get excited about history, but like to forego the inadequacies of historical writing and printing technology.