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News from Berlin

The Dutch Quarter in Potsdam. Architecture as Diplomacy.

September 18th, 2014

News from Berlin – Located right next to the German capital of Berlin is the city of Potsdam, its history stretching back many centuries. Within Potsdam, one may find a wide array of different buildings and architecture, thanks to the many different influences the city has faced during its existence. From modern architecture to downright classical, anything can be found in Potsdam. However, perhaps one of the most peculiar displays of architecture in the city can be found in the area known as the Dutch Quarter.

In this part of Potsdam, small shops, bars and cafés are there to welcome visitors. During the 18th century, the municipality of Potsdam was expanding greatly, due to the placement of a large military garrison in the town. As the town was expanding, qualified craftsmen were needed desperately, and it was the neighboring country of the Netherlands that could offer just that. To increase Dutch immigration, and to make the Dutchmen feel more at home, Frederick William I of Prussia ordered the construction of 134 red, two-story brick houses, arranged on four squares.

The houses were designed by Dutch architect Jan Bouman between 1734 and 1742, and are an example of typical Dutch architecture. In fact, the buildings, known locally as the Holländerhauser (or Dutch houses) make up the largest exclusively Dutch housing development outside the Netherlands in Europe. As mentioned, nowadays the buildings are bursting with life, offering various services, as well as great interior design and façades. Besides good food and drinks, one can find arts and craft shops, galleries, antique dealers and workshops. Also, there is a small museum, the Jan-Bouman-Haus, which offers an insight in everything there is to know about the construction of the Dutch Quarter.

The Dutch Quarter hosts three major festivals a year – a tulip festival in April, a potters’ market in September and the Dutch Christmas market at the end of the year, and thus offers some great insights into typical Dutch culture. It is very interesting indeed to see how an area in Germany, originally intended to attract Dutch people to Potsdam, currently attracts visitors from all over the world, and shows them Dutch culture in a not so usual environment. It also shows how good intercultural relations between countries can be, with Dutch culture attracting people to not only the Netherlands, but Germany as well.