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city | building | plan - 850 Years of Urban Development in Munich

Königsplatz mit Glyptothek  Link öffnet eine vergrößerte Darstellung des Bildes.
The Glyptothek on Königsplatz
© Michael Nagy / LHM

A New Munich, 1800 - 1860

The early years of the 19th century were tantamount to a new founding for Munich. Breaching and partly razing the fortified ring around the city opened a path toward urban development, which continues today. New, modern suburbs arose to provide living space for the growing population.

The small royal residence city was transformed into the capital city of a modern territorial state.

Breaking through Fortified Walls

On 2 June 1795, Prince-Elector Carl Theodor announced that Munich “is not, cannot be, and should not be a fortress.” A new era began in the city’s evolution. Ever since its founding, Munich had been a fortified settlement. For centuries, medieval walls and baroque fortifications had restricted the city’s growth and predetermined its ground plan. By the end of the 18th century, these defensive structures had been allowed to decay. Though they were incapable of withstanding the more powerful weapons of modern warfare, they nonetheless posed an obstacle to orderly urban growth.

Only after the removal of these obsolete defences could the city began to assume its modern shape: open to all sides, spreading outward into the surrounding landscape, and with fluent transitions to the outlying countryside. Stasis and inertia gradually yielded to dynamic growth and a continually changing shape.

Benjamin Thompson, who was later named Count Rumford, initiated these measures. As an influential advisor to the prince-elector from 1785 to 1798, he took the first steps toward breaking through the corset of fortifications – a labour that would require many years before it was completed.

Plazas at the Gates of an Open City

In 1791, before Munich’s status as a fortified city had been formally rescinded, Count Rumford already planned to level fortifications at the site of today’s Karlsplatz [Karl’s Plaza]. The narrow and winding path through the gate and the walls was no longer able to cope with modern traffic. Levelling the bastion at the gate would create a spacious plaza and provide open access to the city. At the same time, the walls on either side were to be torn down, thus freeing space on which to build a first major expansion of the city. Rumford entrusted the planning to Franz Thurn, an architect at Munich’s Hofbauamt [royal building office]. Thurn drew the plans for a new plaza with a surrounding roundabout and straight wings from today’s Lenbachplatz [Lenbach Plaza] to Herzogspitalstrasse. Work on this project continued until 1794.

When Rumford left Munich in 1798, Thurn took over the task of continuing the work that had begun at Karlsplatz. He designed a similar plaza in front of Sendlinger Tor [Sendling Gate]. A row of houses between it and the buildings at Karlsplatz was planned, but the project was never carried out. A similar fate befell several other projects that Thurn intended for plots of land on which the city’s obsolete fortifications stood.

Englischer Garten  Link öffnet eine vergrößerte Darstellung des Bildes.
English Garden with Monopteros

Englischer Garten [English Garden]

The creation of the Englischer Garten [English Garden] in 1789 inaugurated a new era in Munich’s urban development. This marked the beginning of access to the castle precincts by Munich’s citizenry. The city at this time still had its medieval ground plan and was narrowly contained within its defensive fortifications, which had lost their military use, but continued to stand in the way of urban expansion. Even before the work of levelling them had begun, the prince-elector’s planners drew designs for the English Garden which burst the erstwhile boundaries of the closed city.

The first large, green space in Munich was open to all citizens as a “people’s park.” It continues to serve as a model for the city’s other recreational areas today. The park at Ruhmeshalle [hall of fame], the Maximiliansanlagen [greenbelt] along the Isar River, Luitpoldpark [park], and the extensive greenbelts of recent decades all rely on the English Garden as their model. These include Olympiagelände [Olympic campus], Westpark and Ostpark [parks], as well as the land currently under construction at the trade-fair campus in Riem.

A Garden Suburb for Munich

In 1789, at the same time that the English Garden was taking shape, Prince-Elector Carl Theodor arranged to have military gardens established along Schwabinger Landstrasse [Schwabing country road]. After these were relocated to the English Garden in 1795, the plot became available for building construction. This would be the first settlement to be built on public land outside the city walls. It was officially named “Schönfeldvorstadt” [Schönfeld Suburb] in 1797. The houses here were designed in an open architectural style and surrounding gardens were obligatory. Unified rules were also drafted for the houses’ dimensions and the form of their roofs.

A Royal Capital City

Bavaria emerged from the Napoleonic Wars as the largest German state in central Europe, having acquired new provinces and having been granted the status of a kingdom (1806). Centralisation of the state administration in Munich brought new inhabitants and new functions to the growing city. The design of its urban architecture embodied and enhanced the prestige of the entire kingdom. For more than half a century, the first kings of Bavaria orientated the city’s planning according to several major objectives:

  • To free the old city from its restrictive corset by redesigning the sites of obsolete fortifications,
  • To add new settlement zones to the enlarging city, and
  • To enhance the architectural presence of the Residenz [royal residence].

The creation of spacious open areas around the Residence was intended to free the structure from its cramped situation in the old city. Large boulevards would lead from expanded outlying settlement areas to new plazas in the city’s centre. As a counterpart to bourgeois Marienplatz, the Residence became a centre point of the royal capital.

A Plaza for the Royal Residence

At the beginning of the 19th century, Munich’s Residenz [royal residence] was closely bordered by a large monastery to the south. The residence itself was scarcely visible from the old city. Not until 1803 did secularisation create the opportunity to free the building from this confining situation. The adjacent monastery was levelled to create a large open space, which initially remained free from surrounding structures.

With Bavaria’s elevation to the status of a kingdom (1806), plans began to mature for the design of a Residenzplatz [residence plaza] which would express the newly acquired honour. New construction projects initiated by three kings gave this plaza its ultimate shape: the National Theatre, the Königsbau [kingly building], and the colonnade to the south. A memorial sculpture for the first Bavarian king, Max I Joseph, formed the centre and focal point of the site. The urban-architectural revaluation of the Residence concluded with the completion of Maximilianstrasse in 1874. The boulevard linked the heart of regal Munich with the high bank on the far side of the Isar River, where the Maximilianeum rises like a crown and forms the endpoint of the view.

Stadtmodell Odeonplatz  Link öffnet eine vergrößerte Darstellung des Bildes.
City model of Odeonsplatz

Plans for Odeonsplatz [Odeon’s Plaza]

Like Max-Joseph-Platz to the south, another impressive plaza was planned for the northern environs of the royal residence. Friedrich Ludwig von Sckell drew an initial sketch in 1811. He wanted to develop northwardly stretching grounds on the site of present-day Odeonsplatz, but the project failed because of the cost of acquiring the necessary land. Sckell was obliged to revise his plans, and the results were altered beyond recognition. Meanwhile, Klenze likewise began drafting plans for the same area. Crown Prince Ludwig (I) purchased plots of land with his private funds, thus giving Klenze a free hand to proceed with his work. Klenze included essential ideas from von Sckell, but Klenze’s project forms a self-contained site which is mostly enclosed by gates toward the side streets. This design too underwent drastic modifications. Subdividing it into building blocks enabled the final project to match the open system used in nearby Maxvorstadt. One boulevard leads northward in a straight line: the beginnings of the future Ludwigstrasse.

Ludwigstrasse [Ludwig Street]

Through the creation of a boulevard axis towards the north as the backbone of a new suburb, Munich’s urban-architectural focus shifted from the city’s historical centre to the royal residence. While still a crown prince, the future king Ludwig I had already commissioned Leo von Klenze to plan the project, the concept of which is modelled after similar ventures in Rome, Florence, and Paris. Klenze envisioned rows of adjoining houses lining the boulevard and surrounding the plazas.

For the southern end of Ludwigstrasse, Klenze planned to build individually designed residential houses similar to those already standing in the old city. With the continued expansion of the boulevard axis, large structures for public or semi-public institutions were designed by Friedrich Gärtner, Klenze’s rival and successor. Gärtner raised prominent edifices at each end of the boulevard: Feldherrnhalle [Field Marshall Hall] at one end and Siegestor [Victory Gate] at the other.

Ludwigstrasse was a regal road toward the royal residence. Thanks to its grand dimensions and architectonic surroundings, it provided plazas comparable to the great street markets in other old Bavarian cities.

Financing a Royal Boulevard

The defensive fortifications, as well as a large number of privately owned plots, had to be acquired in order to build Odeonsplatz [Odeon’s Plaza] and Ludwigstrasse. The recently built garden architecture in Schönfeldvorstadt [Schönfeld Suburb] along the old Schwabinger Landstraße [Schwabing Country Road] all fell victim to the new boulevard. While still a crown prince, Ludwig I (with Klenze as his middleman) began buying plots. Afterwards he sold them to owners who wanted to build homes and settle in the neighbourhood of the royal residence. This construction model, an early form of capitalist urban development, gradually neared its limits as the dimensions of the plan continued to grow. The king pressured public and semi-public institutions to fill the vacancies alongside the boulevard by erecting large structures on either side.

Despite empty coffers, the municipality itself was obliged to provide the funds to purchase the plots needed for the street. Ludwig likewise compelled the city to incur large debts to finance the construction of Ludwigskirche [Ludwig’s Church].

A Leap across the Isar: Maximilianstrasse [Maximilian’s Street]

Maximilianstrasse [Maximilian’s Street] was conceived between 1851 and 1874. The project had great urban-architectural importance and served several purposes. The opulent and generously proportioned boulevard with the Maximilianeum as its crowning conclusion bridged the Isar River and simultaneously provided access to Lehel, a riverside neighbourhood which had previously been more or less ignored. Urban development reaped further benefits from the creation of park-like facilities along the river’s steeply sloping right bank.

With this project, King Maximilian II also aimed to “invent” a new style which would combine the best features of historical models and modern building technology. He commissioned Munich architect Friedrich Bürklein to plan and construct the boulevard, as well as to design exemplary façades for the buildings alongside it. The large public buildings along the forum-like middle portion and the Maximilianeum are Bürklein’s brainchildren.

In addition to the price of acquiring the land, constructing the boulevard to the Isar also obliged the city to bear the cost of considerable technical advances and financial investments. The height of an existing embankment needed to be raised; some watercourses still flow beneath it today.

A Footpath around the City

Beginning around 1830 (while he was still crown prince), the future King Maximilian II began writing down his thoughts about urban planning. A large and long-pursued project was the notion of developing a greenbelt around the entire city.

The first design, drafted by royal Prussian garden director Peter Joseph Lenné from Berlin, was presented in 1839. This document has since been lost, but two variants exist which Maximilian commissioned years later from architects Zenetti and Bürklein.
The plans envisioned a greenbelt arcing through the city, some parts of which were still vacant land. Large segments of the belt were to be only tree-lined promenades with branches stretching into suburban districts; other segments were to be expanded to create small parks. The Isar was to be the starting point in the south near Thalkirchen with the endpoint near Bogenhausen in the north; here the greenbelt would leap the river and follow its bank south to the starting point in Thalkirchen.

Only a fragment of the plan was actually built. Redesigning the banks of Isar River began in 1857 and continued after the king’s death (1864), and into the last quarter of the 19th century.

Utilitarian Buildings from Maximilian’s Epoch

Starting around 1850, utilitarian buildings made of glass and iron began to acquire an imposing presence that had formerly been reserved solely for impressive buildings of the traditional sort. Architects, engineers, and the king himself (who commissioned the new construction) were equally fascinated by new manufacturing methods, by the innovative modes of construction, and by the use of iron and glass as raw materials.

Components for the new buildings were prefabricated in accord with industrial norms and then delivered to the construction sites, where they could be speedily assembled. Supports and struts were made of cast iron and typically modelled after classical column forms. Roofs were supported by wrought-iron elements. In most cases, the necessary components were manufactured at Cramer & Klett machinery factory in Nuremberg. Some components were also made at Maffei railroad works in Munich. The principles of manufacture and construction were developed by Ludwig Weber, technical director at the firm of Cramer & Klett.

Three structures of this sort are presented here in chronological order as examples of this new form of construction.

Munich, City of Kings

As the capital city of the state of Bavaria and as an administrative centre, the new Munich had important functions to fulfill. City planning under the kings involved more than merely designing new neighbourhoods and meeting functional needs. It also involved designing an image of a city that would be a worthy seat for the ruler and a capital city of the arts.

Three kings commissioned construction and contributed to shaping the face of the city between 1806 and 1864. The acme occurred during the reign of Ludwig I.

He and his architects created the lasting image of a regal Munich, with impressive architecture that followed the rules of a stylistic ideal evoking historical grandeur. More so than other architects, Klenze most shaped the face of the city. After Klenze, the rival architects Gärtner and Ziebland took over some of Klenze’s projects and grudgingly followed the fundamental guidelines specified in his plans.
The Propylaea [“The grand many entrances”] are excellent examples of Klenze’s contributions to the realization of Ludwig I’s regal urban concept.

Text: Hans Lehmbruch, 2008


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