The Berlin architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel visited London in 1826, traveling in the company of his colleague Peter Beuth. They stopped over in Paris, then travelled on to Scotland before putting in a few weeks in London on their way back home. Schinkel’s candid observations and his attempts to meet important people left a record of London life –theatrical, musical, and scientific– and architecture in which Sir John Soane’s name looms large although the two never met. A comparison of Soane’s and Schinkel’s ideas about architectural education lends sharper definition to their affinities and differences. Other travelers from the Continent, such as Prince Pückler Muskau, the landscape architect in search of an heiress, added intrigue, the composer Carl Maria von Weber had arrived to conduct his opera Oberon, and the French writer Stendhal temporarily resided in London. Preoccupations with the development of the city and the social strain caused by poverty signaled a future soon to rear its head in Germany. Schinkel was perhaps less impressed with English architecture than he was with landscape, manufacture, and public entertainment, but he never forgot his brush with a true metropolis.
Kurt W. Forster is Professor Emeritus, Yale School of Architecture. He has also held professorships at Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, and the Bauhaus University Weimar. He directed the Swiss Institute in Rome, the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, and the Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles). He recently published Schinkel: A Meander Through His Life and Work (Birkhauser, 2018).