DiCamillo tour of Neoclassical Berlin, 2016

Neoclassical Berlin

Bio of Tour Leader

Curt DiCamillo

Curt is an American architectural historian and a recognized authority on the British country house. He has written and lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad on the subject and has taught classes on British culture and art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Providence Athenaeum, and Beacon Hill Seminars. Curt regularly leads scholarly tours that focus on the architectural and artistic heritage of Britain and its influence around the world. Since 1999 he has maintained an award-winning database on the web, The DiCamillo Companion to British & Irish Country Houses (TheDiCamillo.com). The database seeks to document every English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish country house ever built, standing or demolished, together with a history of the families who lived in the houses, the architects who designed them, and the history of the houses’ collections and gardens.

In recognition of his work, Curt has been presented to the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and The Prince of Wales. He is a member of The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain and is an alumnus of both the Royal Collection Studies program and The Attingham Summer School for the Study of Historic Houses and Collections. Curt is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, is a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and a member of the Council of the American Museum in Britain.

Curt serves as Curator for Special Collections at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, before which, for nine years, he was Executive Director of The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA, based in Boston, where he was responsible for raising over $7 million for the Trust (he currently holds the position of Executive Director Emeritus). Previously he worked for 13 years for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A native of the Philadelphia area, Curt grew up in Central Florida with his sister, the award-winning children’s book author Kate DiCamillo.

A Berlin Mitte Unter den Linden

Neue Wache (New Guardhouse), Berlin | Photo by Beek100. Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licensePhoto by Beek100. Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Meet the Inspiration for the Tour!

That would be the divine Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841), one of the chief European proponents of Neoclassicism.  We think of Britain today as one of the leading lights of the Neoclassical movement, but it’s arguable that Germany was even more advanced in the development of this style, and none practiced it more sublimely or purely than the Prussian-born Schinkel.

This amazing man was not only one of the most prominent architects of 19th century Germany, but also a noted city planner, a designer of furniture and decorative arts, an interior decorator, a painter, and a designer of stage sets (his famous 1815 star-spangled set for the entrance of the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute is still a resource for modern productions of the opera).

After Napoleon’s defeat, Schinkel oversaw the Prussian Building Commission, where he was responsible for reshaping the ordinary and pedestrian city of Berlin into a spectacular capital for Prussia.  His preferred style was Greek, rather than Imperial Roman architecture, which was seen as the style of the recent French occupiers.

Many of the grandest buildings in Berlin came into existence because of Schinkel. However, he is almost equally famous for a project he designed, but which was never built:  the transformation of the Athenian Acropolis into a royal palace for the new Kingdom of Greece.


English ​Elysium

B = Breakfast | D = Dinner | L = Lunch | R = Reception | T = Tea

Day 1

Monday, May 16

R, D

Arrive on your own at one of the German capital’s finest hotels – the five-star Regent Berlin overlooking the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt square, the Concert Hall, and two 18th century cathedrals.  After checking in, there will be time to relax and enjoy the surroundings.

Our program begins at 3:30 PM with an afternoon reception at the hotel, followed by an orientation tour by coach led by architectural historian Michael Cullen.  We will also be joined by Anna Schultz and Evelin Morgenstern, our specialist guides who will accompany us throughout the tour.


Michael will introduce us to the layout and key sites of the former East and West Berlin, beginning with the Forum Fridericianum, the ensemble of buildings along Unter den Linden boulevard that illustrate Frederick the Great’s ideal of unification of kingship, art, and science and which today still exemplifies the center of Berlin.  Michael will point out Bebelplatz, with its stunning Memorial of the Burnt Book; the monumental Socialist boulevard, Karl-Marx-Allee; the section of the Berlin Wall known as East Side Gallery, considered an international memorial for freedom; Checkpoint Charlie; and, crossing into the former West Berlin, its main boulevard, the Kurfürstendamm (Kudamm); the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church; and the Victory Column.  We will also see the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, better known simply as the Holocaust Memorial.

A Forum Fridericianum Bebelplatz

Forum Fridericianum | Photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

We will celebrate our first evening together with a welcome dinner at the renowned Käfer Restaurant in the roof garden atop the Reichstag, famously designed by Lord Norman Foster.

A Reichstag Berlin Sicherheit

The Reichstag | Photo used under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication


Tuesday, May 17

B, L, T

This morning our guide, Anna Schultz, will briefly introduce us to the architectural history of the Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin’s elegant French-inspired square opposite our hotel.

Then we meet Dr. Jörg Trempler, art historian and author of a recent Schinkel biography, who will begin our coach tour with a look at three iconic buildings designed by Schinkel that highlight how versatile and influential his architecture was:  the Neo-Gothic Friedrichwerdersche Kirche (sadly closed due to renovation); the partly-reconstructed Bauakademie, with its uncommon use of red brick and its streamlined facade; and the Neue Wache, or New Guardhouse, a stunning example of German Neoclassicism.

Next Jörg will take us to the Alte Nationalgalerie, a state museum showcasing Neoclassical, Romantic, Biedermeier, Impressionist, and early Modernist artwork.  Here we will focus on Schinkel as an artist, and his influence on the work of the famous Caspar David Friedrich, whose paintings will also be on display.  We will also meet Kristina Mösl, Head of Conservation, who has examined a number of Schinkel paintings using the latest and most sophisticated technology.  She will show us infrared images and share additional information on Schinkel’s work.

Then we’re on to the recently-restored Altes Museum on Museum Island, designed by Schinkel in the Neoclassical style to house the Prussian royal family’s art collection (today home to the national antiquities collection).  Considered a high point of Schinkel’s career, its design has provided a much-copied blueprint for museum designs around the world.

A Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin

Neue Wache (New Guardhouse), Berlin | Photo by Beek100

This afternoon we will visit Schloss Charlottenburg, built by the Elector Friederich III in 1699 as a summer palace for his wife, Sophie Charlotte.  This regal estate, the largest palace in Berlin, is framed by a famous Baroque-style garden, which we will stroll through, walking past the Mausoleum of Queen Luise (designed by Schinkel) to the recently reopened Neuer Pavillon (often called the Schinkel-Pavillon), an architectural gem that houses a beautiful interior with an impressive combination of decorative arts and painting reflecting the spirit of Schinkel’s time.

Schloss Charlottenburg | This photo is in the public domain

We’ll then walk to the Theaterbau (Theatre Building of 1788), home of the KPM Archive (the archives of the Royal Porcelain Factory, Berlin), where Curator Eva Wollschläger will take us on a private tour of this world-class collection.  The Archive has extremely rich holdings that include drawings and studies for vases and bowls, decorations of the orders of the Prussian royal family, the original designs of porcelain vases, rare engravings, more than 6,000 photos of different motifs, and 50,000 prints that were used to inspire the design and decoration of the factory’s output.  The KPM Archive will also provide an introduction to and context for our visit to the KPM factory later in the week.

Nearby we will also see the Schlossbrücke, an elegant bridge designed by Schinkel to connect the city with the palace, and adorned with impressive sculptures.

Next we will make the short journey to the Villa Oppenheim for coffee at the famous Frau Bäckerin.  Here we’ll be joined by Wolf-Borwin Wendland, an architect, buildings conservator, and eminent collector of 19th century decorative and applied art.

Then it’s back to the hotel, where you’ll have an evening on your own.


KPM porcelain pâte-sur-pâte plate, circa 1900 | This photo is in the public domain


Wednesday, May 18

B, D

We begin the day at Potsdamer Platz, where Michael Cullen will show us how the area, completely rebuilt since the end of the Cold War, has been transformed from a “no man’s land” into a futuristic commercial center that is a showcase for some of the greatest contemporary architects.

Next we’ll tour the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings), a world-class collection of prints and drawings which houses 4,000 drawings from Schinkel’s bequest. The Museum’s Director, Professor Schulze Altcappenberg, curator of the recent Schinkel exhibition, will share with us some of his personal favorites.

Stage set for Mozart's Magic Flute

Schinkel’s famous 1815 drawing of the stage set he designed for Mozart’s "The Magic Flute" | This image is in the public domain in the US

Then on to the Gemäldegalerie, one of the world’s most important collections of European paintings, where we’ll have a highlights tour of the museum, with time to view frames that Schinkel designed for Old Master paintings.

Next we will visit the Kunstgewerbemuseum, where curator Dr. Achim Stiegel will show us a selection of furniture designed by Schinkel and explain the construction and the beginnings of serial production manufacture, which has been a model of efficiency ever since.  We will also be joined by other Schinkel experts: Dr. Jan Mende, a specialist in Schinkel, and Birgit Kropmanns, an expert on Schinkel’s designs for lighting features and chandeliers.

Lunch and the remainder of the afternoon are on your own.

This evening we’ll gather for dinner at one of Berlin’s finest restaurants.

Schinkel Berlin Salon Interior

A Schinkel Design for a Berlin Salon | This image is in the public domain


Thursday, May 19

B, L

We begin the day by meeting our local guide, Stefan Albrecht, who will lead a walking tour of the United Nations World Heritage Site of Spandauer Vorstadt (often called Scheunenviertel, or the Jewish Quarter).  Formerly situated directly in front of the medieval fortification walls of old Berlin, this charming area is noted for narrow streets, 17th century Baroque houses, and romantic courtyards.  Compared to the center of Berlin, Spandauer Vorstadt survived World War II with relatively little damage.

Next, we are privileged to visit the private apartment of Christoph Müller, a passionate collector of Dutch, Flemish, and Danish Old Master paintings and drawings.  He recently donated over 150 important 17th century paintings to the Schwerin Museum.  Christoph will share with us many other works still in his collection.

We’ll enjoy a light lunch in a local restaurant before we arrive at the Knoblauchhaus for a guided tour of this house museum dedicated to the Biedermeier era in Berlin, a transitional period between Neoclassicism and Romanticism (roughly 1815-48).  The tour will end with Schinkel as an Interior Designer, a presentation by Jan Mende and his colleagues.

The rest of the afternoon and evening are at leisure.

A Knoblauchhaus Interior

The Knoblauchhaus Museum | ©Stadtmuseum Berlin

Day 5

Friday, May 20

B, L, D

Today we travel by coach to the city of Potsdam.  En route we will see Schloss Glienicke, an architectural masterpiece, and the Große Neugier viewing platform, built by Schinkel for supervising incoming traffic across the Glienicker Brücke.

We’ll begin our Potsdam tour in the picturesque Dutch Quarter (Holländisches Viertel).  Beginning in 1722, the “Soldier King,” Frederick William I, had 134 brick houses with curved gables built for Dutch settlers.  Today these charming houses are home to galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and cafés.

We will stop for lunch on Neuer Markt, where we’ll be joined by Dr. Samuel Wittwer, Director of the Foundation of Prussian Castles and Gardens in Berlin and Brandenburg.


A Schloss Charlottenhof Park Sanssouci Potsdam

Schloss Charlottenhof | This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

After lunch Dr. Wittwer will lead us on a magical tour of nearby palaces, all located within a stunning landscape park. Schloss Charlottenhof, our first stop, is an intimate Neoclassical ensemble built for Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm.  Upon departing Schloss Charlottenhof we’ll walk past the Gärtnerhaus, Römische Bäder, and the Chinesisches Teehaus, famous for its dazzling gilt roof.

Next we will pass the Neues Palais, which was modelled on Castle Howard in Yorkshire.  This grand building was begun by Frederick the Great in 1763 to celebrate Prussia’s success in the Seven Years’ War.  We’ll see many famous sites from the coach before we arrive at the Belvedere on Pfingstberg, the grand vantage point that looks over the park of Sanssouci.

Today’s piece-de-resistance will be our tour of Frederick the Great’s famous Schloss Sanssouci, a Rococo dream palace heavily inspired by the French fashion, for which Frederick had a particular passion.

Following the tour we’ll have a private organ concert in the beautiful setting of St. Peter und Paul auf Nikolskoe, followed by time on your own to enjoy the park.

After time to relax and unwind at the hotel, tonight’s dinner will be at Schloss Glienicke – Remise, a restaurant located in the coach house of the Glienicke Palace and set in beautiful grounds on the River Havel landscaped by Schinkel and Peter Joseph Lenné.

A Sanssouci Detail

Schloss Sanssouci | This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Day 6

Saturday, May 21

B, T, D

We begin today with a tour of the well-preserved rooms of Schloss Tegel, the 16th century lakeside residence of the naturalist Wilhelm von Humboldt.  After his retirement from the civil service in 1819, von Humboldt moved into his parents’ home, where he had the interior and exterior of the Renaissance building renovated in a classical style by Schinkel.  The vestibule was designed as an ancient Roman atrium with a fountain at its center, while the salons were designed to house antique sculptures and casts that Wilhelm and Caroline von Humboldt had collected during their years in Rome.  In 1829 Schinkel also designed the family tomb in the park.

On our way to our next visit we’ll pass by Elisabethkirche, the largest of the four Berlin suburban churches that Schinkel designed in the 1830s.  The Church suffered heavy damage during World War II and was only restored in the 1990s.

We arrive at KPM – The Royal Porcelain Factory in Berlin (Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin) for a guided tour of the workshops of this beautifully preserved facility where the craft of fine porcelain manufacturing is alive and thriving (classical vases designed by Schinkel are among the company’s bestsellers!).  KPM was founded in 1763 by Frederick the Great to consolidate earlier German companies that had been trying to establish the production of “white gold,” i.e., porcelain.

We’ll end our visit with a short stop at the KPM Cafe, where coffee and tea will be served on KPM porcelain!

Our festive farewell dinner tonight will be at one of Berlin’s most prominent restaurants.

Schloss Tegel Sammlung Duncker

Schloss Tegel in the 19th century | This image is in the public domain in the US


Sunday, May 22


The tour ends after breakfast.