Kosmos Wiepersdorf


Petra Hübinger: The Garden of Wiepersdorf Castle


Petra Hübinger: The Garden of Wiepersdorf Castle

The painter Achim von Arnim, a grandson of the poet couple Achim and Bettina von Arnim, is the person who gave the Wiepersdorf Castle garden its present structure. He made a gesamtkunstwerk out of the Mark Brandenburg estate, which, typical for the region, hitherto comprised a barnyard, a modest manor house, and a simple rural ornamental garden. The alterations and extensions to the manor house transformed it into a castle-like, noble-looking ensemble.

The painter was, however, interested most in transforming the garden. Following high Baroque models, he had a sunken parterre laid out in the form of a bowling green and an orangery built, stairs and balustrades installed, and acquired an abundance of 18th-century Italian sculptures. In this way he populated the formerly modest estate in the rather barren Mark Brandenburg garden with Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, fauns, nymphs, and even whimsical gnomes. Picturesque elements softened the uniformity of the Baroque model.

The painter Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde had gone to high school in Frankfurt am Main with the support of relatives who lived there. He then studied law in Berlin up to the first state examination and afterwards painting in Munich. Hence he had lived for several years in large cities—also outside the heart of Prussia; each of these places had developed its own unique cultural and social center. Nevertheless, his connection to Wiepersdorf always remained strong.

He took over the Wiepersdorf estate in 1876 upon the death of his stepmother, who left him a considerable tangible cultural legacy. Evidence has been passed down to us that, already in the following year, initial work was carried out in preparation of redoing the garden complex.

However, it was not until 1884 that the overall ensemble acquired its present shape: The garden front of the manor house was enhanced by a gabled central avant-corps with a balcony and veranda, together with a terrace that extends almost across the entire breadth of the building. A broad flight of stairs leads down to the sunken parterre at the center of its semicircular head, with smaller staircases leading down into the garden on either side.

This defines the central axis of the design of the entire ensemble: the fundamental structural motif of the Baroque garden. The castle’s Garden Hall marks where it begins. From there and from the balcony room on the upper floor, the central axis cuts through the terrace, the parterre, and all the levels of the terrain as it extends along the adjoining avenue of lime trees through to the rondel adorned with the statue of Zeus. Beyond the latter the forest begins. The basic symmetrical structure, all forms of design, and the entire decoration program are subordinate to the main axis and aligned with it.

Achim’s plans for the garden have survived in numerous sketches from the 1880s. First of all, he developed the basic shape of the parterre. The stairs were envisaged from the beginning and enhance the spatial effect. Opposite the palace, the parterre concludes in a semicircle, creating a transition to the lime tree avenue and the areas of open meadow on either side. At the same time, the semicircle with the figures of the four seasons, today called the “seasons rondel,” underscores the axial line that passes through this point.

On its southern flank, the parterre was given a strong backdrop with the orangery. This was offset by building a balustrade opposite as a boundary to the pond. In this way, a symmetrical garden space was created that was enlivened by flower plantings, Mediterranean potted plants, decorative vases on pedestals, and ancient Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. Achim himself chose the vases and deities during several trips to Italy. He purchased “ten statues and four very beautiful vases” alone in Venice.

By following Baroque models, Achim had opted for a highly artificial garden with an axial sequence of spaces, symmetrical basic forms, and elaborate fixtures. At the same time, picturesque, that is, purportedly natural elements, softened the formal severity: irregularly dispersed old trees growing as nature let them, adjoining open meadows, the tree-lined pond, and the nearby forest.

The painter Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde thus created his own special Arcadia, which was and is very much an artist’s garden. He conceived the structure of spatial sequence and its elements, designed the shapes of the beds and pathways, and meticulously worked out all the details of the ashlar. He painted and drew garden scenes of the desired—and in part achieved—ideal state. Evidence of this has survived in numerous sketches and pictures.

However, he did not live to see his gesamtkunstwerk completed. It was not until after his death in 1891 that the balustrades were erected according to his designs.

Visitors to the garden a few years after Achim’s death described it as “enchanting,” “its design expressing a sense of beauty and freedom,” or “a world created by the hand of an artist.”

Achim was well aware of how valuable his legacy was. In his will, he stipulated that “the newly planted gardens and avenues were to be preserved in their present extent” and not be “converted into farmland or forest.”

We are grateful for it today.

Petra Hübinger: Studied landscape planning at the TU Berlin. Since 1993, together with Dr. Joachim Jacobs, partner of Dr. Jacobs & Hübinger, office for garden monument preservation and landscape architecture. Providing numerous reports and concepts for the repair, restoration and revitalization of listed outdoor spaces. Planning of and construction management for the restoration of historic parks and gardens, city squares, cemeteries, residential complexes as well as other public and private facilities, predominantly in Berlin and Brandenburg. Since 2021: Hübinger office, garden monument preservation and landscape architecture.