Grey Room

Metropolitan Architecture: Karl Schreffler and Alfred Messel’s Search for a New Urbanity

Alexander Eisenschmidt


Eisenschmidt’s essay focuses on Karl Scheffler’s interpretation of Berlin’s famous Wertheim department store. Designed by Alfred Messel from 1896 to 1904, the Wertheim complex was one of the largest department stores in Europe. As featured by Scheffler in several publications from the first decades of the twentieth century, Messel’s design not only exemplified a new typology of modern building, but a new relationship of architecture to the “faceless” metropolis. In this essay, Eisenschmidt claims that Scheffler’s Wertheim site continues to offer lessons as much for architectural-historical interpreters of Berlin modernism as for architects’ engagements with cities of the present.