Masterbuilder Georg Adolph Demmler
Portraitist of the City
He was said to be a difficult man to deal with, though Demmler was favored by the Grand Dukes for quite some time and left his marks on the city. His architecture breaths the air of the great Prussian masters he studied with in Berlin: Schinkel, Stüler and Semper. Demmler's connection to the socialdemocratic movement and his fight for workers rights finally put an end to his career.
Becoming a Master Builder
To be exact, Georg Adolph Demmler wasn’t even an architect. In those days his position was called “court building officer”, and he left his mark on Schwerin like nobody else. He designed the great Marstall building, the mighty Arsenal near lake Pfaffenteich, the Tudor-style facade of the Town Hall and, most of it all, he re-built Schwerin’s Palace.
All these representative buildings from the 19th century are main attractions of the city until today. Demmler, the illegitimate son of a chimney sweep, drew his first blueprint of a house when he was only 14 years old. He studied architecture at the Academy in Berlin, where master Karl Friedrich Schinkel was his mentor. Demmler went on to enter the civil service as a young architect in Mecklenburg. Within only a year he was promoted from being a simple master builder to working as court architect for the Grand Duke.
Footprints in the City
Being in favour of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg, Demmler enjoyed a great deal of leeway to develop his architectural visions of Schwerin. In course of this productive phase, he designed the Council Building in the Schlossstrasse in 1824 as seat of government for the ducal leader. One of his greatest works is the massive ducal armoury, the Arsenal, which Demmler had constructed out of six million bricks. Its Tudor style design and towers stand up high and dauntingly in the city centre.
Demmler had a fancy for round arches and turrets, which can be seen on his own house next to lake Pfaffenteich, with a view of the Arsenal building.
Schwerin Palace - A difficult love story
However, the most important project of Freemason Demmler undoubtedly is the rebuilding of Schwerin Palace. It was planned to be the flagship of Mecklenburg and its Grand Duke, a timeless masterpiece. Before Demmler completed his plans, he travelled along the French Loire river for inspiration and found it in a french palace. That is why Schwerin Palace resembles castle Chambord in some features. In collaboration with architect Hermann Willebrand, he completed the first blueprints of the newly designed ducal residence.
Four years before, Demmler had climbed further up the ladder of his career and had been appointed Court Architect.
Fired by the Grand Duke
But the period in the middle of the 19th century was also a time of great political renewal. Demmler was known to have a strong social commitment, which was in a sense opposed to the traditional system of clergy and aristocracy. He spoke up for sickness benefits and accident compensation for his workers and builders and was an active member of Schwerin’s citizen’s committee. All these efforts caused him tensions within the court society so that in 1851, the formerly acclaimed architect was removed from office. He could never finish his work on the Palace. It was Friedrich August Stüler who took over the project and left his own mark on the monument..
Freemasonry and later life
Nevertheless, after all the trouble and much travelling, Demmler came back to Schwerin and dedicated himself to active social democracy. When he died at the age of 82, he was buried in the Old Graveyard of Schwerin, where he had designed his own mausoleum. Even his funeral chapel shows signs of different architectural styles and Freemason symbols.
Facts and Follies
Take a guided tour
Do you want to know more about Demmler, Petermännchen, Grand Dukes or hear the troubled story of the “Buttocks Parade”? Get closer to the history of Schwerin on one of our guided tours.