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You are here :: Berlinoxx.com :: Home :: Logistics History :: Berlin Granite Bowl
Berlin Granite Bowl
The granite bowl in the Berlin Lustgarten and its transportation from the Rauensche Hills

Anyone who is standing today in the Berlin Lustgarten and takes a look at the Altes Museum will see directly in front of the entrance portal a huge granite bowl standing on four marble cubes and the person will not worry himself about where, how or under which conditions this gigantic bowl came to that place.
Therefore we must return in our history and put ourselves at the beginning of the 19th century. Granite was at that time a very popular building material in Brandenburg because it was found in larger quantities. The granite sources existed because the glaciers of the ice age extended down to this area and the former Scandinavian inland ice carried a vast number of boulders over immense distances.

Granite bowl at its present location in front of the Altes Museum in the Berlin Lustgarten
Granite bowl at its present location in front of the Altes Museum in the Berlin Lustgarten

King Friedrich Wilhelm III had a great love for granite bowls and other architectural monuments. One of his master builders, Christian Gottlieb Cantian, had made several of such granite bowls for him already; he had also made one with a diameter of 1.9 metres for the Berlin Castle. History says that the English ambassador, the Duke of Devonshire, commissioned a significantly larger granite bowl. Because of this the monarch could not rest. Obsessed he commissioned Cantian to produce a much bigger granite bowl - for the glory of Prussia. Cantian found the source material south of the town Fürstenwalde/Spree in the Rauensche Hills.
Glacial movements deposited the largest granite boulders here. Two very big stones, well known as "The Margrave Stones", were available. Cantian selected the larger one. This Granite boulder had, in its original shape, an approximate volume of 250 m³ and a length of 7.8 m, a width of 7.5 m and also a height of approx. 7.5 m. With this stone he could comply with the demand of the king and could achieve the required diameter of 7 m.
Starting in the month May in the year 1827 this gigantic granite boulder was blasted into several parts in a complicated procedure employing rinsed timber wedges ( historical reports indicate up to 100 skilled workers on site). The middle section was, from the point of view of Cantian, well suited for the desired granite bowl.

Remnants of the huge Margrave Stone in the Rauensche Hills in its actual condition; the bigger portion is hidden underground. The blast was carried out on the right side of the picture.
Remnants of the huge Margrave Stone in the Rauensche Hills in its actual condition; the bigger portion is hidden underground. The blast was carried out on the right side of the picture.

The middle part of the stone (probably 70 - 80 tons of mass) was sculpted by hand on site by stone cutters. After the blank shape was produced the real logistics problem began.
The Margrave Stone, hewn into the blank shape of the bowl, was situated several kilometres away from the Spree river. Transportation on the impassable roads did not appear to be an option. Moreover, what means of transport could possibly convey it by land? But the rough shape had to be carried from the Rauensche Hills at a height of approx. 150 m to the Spree. Paths had to be cleared in the forest. An unrecorded number of spruce boles from the Rauensche Hills served as transport rollers. The ground had to be reinforced as well. Therefore a strong plank way was laid under the rolling spruce boles. Even today one of these forest paths remains in excellent condition and testifies to the route of transport.

Remains of the transport route in the Rauensche Hills used in the removal of the rough granite form
Remains of the transport route in the Rauensche Hills used in the removal of the rough granite form

When the rough granite form arrived at the Spree it was loaded onto a special barge and transported to Berlin. By the way, the transport over ground took 6 weeks! So far so good!
But logistically everything wasn`t thought through. Berlin`s Grünstraßen-Bridge in today`s Mitte/Tiergarten district had to be passed through, too. That`s where the logistics chain was interrupted! The external diameter of the rough granite form did not allow a passage because the inner width of the bridge was smaller! That`s why, in a tough handmade process, the material of the bridge had to be chiselled out on both sides of the Grünstraßen-Bridge to ensure the passage. On November 6th, 1828, it succeeded: the rough shape arrived in Berlin to great public interest!

The Grünstraßen-Bridge in its current state - some material had to be removed from the right and left side of the masonry, in order to ensure the passage of the rough granite shape through the bridge.
The Grünstraßen-Bridge in its current state - some material had to be removed from the right and left side of the masonry, in order to ensure the passage of the rough granite shape through the bridge.

It still took considerable time before the final version of the polished granite bowl found its place in the Lustgarten on November 10th, 1834.
Incidentally there was yet another logistics glitch. Originally Schinkel had presented plans integrating this granite bowl into the rotunda of the Altes Museums. But here, too, the simple math of the dimensions did not prove to be correct. The ground granite bowl did not fit into the rotunda. As a result we can admire it today directly in front of the Altes Museum. A slight mistake to great effect!

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Wednesday 18 October, 2017
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