Kosmos Wiepersdorf


Stop 4: Castle
© Dirk Bleicker

Stop 4

Wiepersdorf Castle, inside and outside: The history of its construction

The castle, stretching out before you with its entire façade facing the park, is the building Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde left to posterity, that is, at least in its external structure.

The fact that the castle appears so bright today is the result of numerous renovation measures, including the renewal of the roof and a new coat of paint. This was carried out by the German Foundation for Monument Preservation in 2018 and 2019.

The first thing that Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde had built was the studio, which with its three adjacent high windows adjoins the palace on the left. That was in 1878. Later, he equipped the main building of the castle with a central avant-corps, that is, a projection that divides the facade into sections in the form of a balcony supported by four columns. Above all, he had a terrace laid out along almost the entire front of the building, in the middle of which a flight of eight-meter-wide stairs leads into the park. The main entrance to the castle was located here in those times and it is where the carriage would stop. The present appearance of the park with its sculptures and the orangery that borders the park in the south are also attributable to Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde’s efforts.

The palace’s more prestigious rooms include the Garden Hall, which can be reached via the central flight of stairs, and the so-called Balcony or Bettine Room above it. However, lovers of historical architecture should be warned: for a long time now, only the outer shell bears a semblance to a Baroque castle. The interior has been remodeled several times. After looting at the end of World War Two, the first structural changes were made at the beginning of the 1950s, when the wiring and plumbing were improved. But as late as 1956, guests from Wiepersdorf wrote to the then Minister of Culture, the poet Johannes R. Becher, that ...

“The structural condition of this historic site, which is a listed building, is such a disgrace that the cultural conscience of the nation must hide its head in shame; immediate measures must be taken to rectify this ... Water drips through the ceiling in the large room on the second floor, it even rains into the orangery: there is a lack of bitumen waterproofing for the roofing as well as funds for installing any waterproofing. The studio, which could make many an artist happy if he or she could use it, serves as a storage room. The statues have been exposed to frost for about twelve years. Boys have knocked the head off Pallas Athena, do we want to wait for the frost to do the same to Leda and the Swan next winter?”

A few years later, at the end of the fifties, the disastrous condition was at least provisionally remedied. And the sanitary facilities were expanded and modernized.

Besides sales and purchases of furniture during the GDR years, which are hardly traceable today, the most serious intervention was the major renovation that took place from 1974 to 1980. The building was gutted down to the load-bearing walls, and the interior design was adapted to contemporary needs. A socialist artists’ residency center needed many more rooms, and therefore the overnight accommodation capacity had to be increased. Modern and functional furnishings were called for, in keeping with the image fostered by the state. However, not only the main building, but also the barnyard and the orangery were radically adapted to the cultural and political requirements of an artists’ residency center during those long years of reconstruction. At the same time, the reconstruction work and the reopening in 1980, watched by the state security with wary eyes, shifted Wiepersdorf closer to Berlin and thus more into the focus of political power.

One thing is certain: When it was reopened in 1980, the Wiepersdorf Castle estate had become something new. Original features were not lost, however, because the armchairs in which Bettina would have sat, standing desks at which Achim would have worked—all this had disappeared from Wiepersdorf long ago. Since that time, the existing furniture consisted of an agglomeration of purchases and replicas from over a century. The animal husbandry that Achim von Arnim had practiced in Wiepersdorf was also a thing of the past. The pond located next to the park on the northern outskirts of the grounds is, however, evidence of earlier agricultural production. The stop dedicated to the castle pond is located directly by the low stone bench.