Karl Friedrich Schinkel did not become an architect, painter, and designer of stage sets by following a predictable career path. The son of a Protestant pastor in Neu-Ruppin whose widow moved her family to the city of Berlin in 1794, Schinkel grew up in somewhat unstable circumstances, and as he matured, began to lead a life of restless activity. At barely 17 years of age, he coaxed a self-portrait from his pen, a crude but compelling image of a rebellious youth. He proudly sealed his likeness with the classical formula Schinkel se ipse fecit, suggesting perhaps the more literal meaning, “Schinkel the man who made himself.” In retrospect, it may be claimed that he was truly a self-made man among his eminent contemporaries.
There were two distinct “venues” in Schinkel’s professional life: on the one hand, the mundane plane on which architecture had to be conceived and built within the limitations of use and purpose, patronage and budget; on the other hand, the theater of imagination and poetic invention, in which Stimmung reigned supreme. It was in this latter sphere that every object was made to resonate with allusions. This was the stage on which Schinkel experimented with architecture, and where he learned, in Schlegel’s words, “to fantasize the music of life.”
Urban congestion did not arise out of motoring. It has been consubstantial with the city since well before our century, first appearing probably with the great western urbanization. Congestion therefore covers a significant array of problems: the clutter, the jams, the obstacles, are due to the multiplicity of activities associated with public space and are not limited to the the sole difficulty of circulating.
At the very beginning of the twentieth century, the automobile nevertheless takes the tormented city by speed. Speed is a fault for the city dweller, but a quality for the sportsman, the young bachelor. The regulation of speed, its fluidity, is violently achieved by the discipline of the urban body, of pedestrians and individuals, especially children, by the exclusion of all that refuses to enter the ideology of modernity. From then on, the big city is enamored of speed but without atmosphere, without soul.
The CCA Mellon Foundation Senior Fellowship Program was established in 2001 to encourage advanced research in architectural history and thought. With the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the CCA has welcomed distinguished scholars for residencies of one to eight months, culminating in a public lecture.