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Art  &  Artist



 Max Berg



Max Berg      

(b Stettin [now Szczecin, Poland], 17 April 1870; d Baden-Baden, 22 Jan 1947).

German architect and urban planner. At the Technische Hochschule, Charlottenburg, Berlin, he was greatly influenced by his teacher, Carl Schäfer. Schäfer was a fervent supporter of Gothic architecture, which he saw as the true expression of construction. Emphasis on construction became an important feature of Berg’s architecture. Under the urban planner Franz Adickes (1846–1915), from Frankfurt am Main, who introduced zoning into planning, he became familiar with the problems of urban planning and politics. In 1909 he became a senior building official in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland), a post that he held until 1925. Hans Poelzig was head of the Königliche Kunst- und Kunstgewerbeschule in Breslau, and he and Berg had studied together at Charlottenburg and collaborated on a number of projects in Breslau. Berg’s reputation is based on his works in Breslau. One of his most important works is the Jahrhunderthalle (1911–13), part of a large complex designed for the centenary celebrations of the War of Liberation (1813). It comprises a cylindrical central space topped by a cupola, while at ground-level four large apses form a cruciform shape. The exterior was dominated by stepped bands of windows, giving it a terraced outline. However, it was the interior (see fig.) that made this building one of the boldest fusions of architecture and engineering in the first decades of the 20th century. Composed entirely of reinforced concrete, the interior fully exposed the structural skeleton of concrete ribs and buttresses, a system that in 1913 made the Jahrhunderthalle the largest central space in the world. It came to be regarded as one of the key buildings in the transition from historicism and Expressionism to a new rational and functional architecture. Berg had great faith in new materials and technology, deliberately choosing concrete because it would ‘bear witness to the culture of our times even after the passage of history’ (Pehnt, p. 69). In 1925 he designed a large exhibition hall for the same complex, this time in timber: the timber roof beams were supported by a series of light segmental timber arches. His waterworks of 1920 and 1925, large, almost austere brick structures, show his affiliation to the rational architecture of the 1920s. As senior building official Berg was also responsible for urban planning. He devised a comprehensive scheme for the city (1921–2) and planned and designed a number of housing developments. In his Breslau scheme he included four high-rise blocks (unexecuted) for the city centre, adjacent to the town hall. Berg was greatly interested in high-rise building and produced a number of studies investigating the use of high-rise office buildings in German cities. He believed that urban expansion in the late 19th century and the early 20th had turned cities into shapeless sprawls, and he saw high-rise blocks as an opportunity to restore the skyline to the city. After 1925 Berg went to Berlin and then to Baden-Baden; there is little evidence of his later life and work.


Power station on the Odra River, Wroclaw, Poland.
About 1919



Jahrhunderthalle  (now Hala Ludowa), 1913


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