The Roman Baths, northeast of the Charlottenhof Palace in the Sanssouci Park in Potsdam, reflect the Italiensehnsucht ("Sehnsucht/longing for Italy") of its creator Frederick William IV of Prussia. Various Roman and antiquated Italian styles were melded into the architectural ensemble created between 1829 and 1840.
Garden house with the Roman baths
While still a crown prince Frederick William commissioned both Charlottenhof (1826-1829) and the Roman baths (1834-1840). Coming up with numerous ideas and drawing many actual drafts, the artistically-gifted heir to the throne had great influence on the plans of the architect, Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Charged with managing the actual construction was one of Schinkel's students, Ludwig Persius.
The garden house (Gärtnerhaus) (1829-30) and the house for its keepers (Gärtnergehilfenhaus) (1832) were both built in Italian country house style (Landhausstil). The Roman bath for which the whole ensemble was named was styled after ancient villas. Together with the tea-pavilion (Teepavillon) (1830), modelled on temples of antiquity, it forms the complex of buildings, tied together by pergolas, arcades and sections of garden. The individual buildings were largely inspired by Schinkel's second trip to Italy in 1828. Thus the Roman bath, which has never been bathed in, came to be thanks purely to the romantic fantasy of the royal Italophile.
Inside view of the baths
The names of the rooms connote a mixture of antique villas and Roman baths. The atrium, the courtyard of a Roman house, is the reception area. The Impluvium, actually only a glorified rainwater-collection device, gives its name to the whole room in which it is located. The Viridarium (greenhouse) is actually a small garden. Names associated with Roman thermal baths are Apodyterium for the changing room, and Caldarium.
The whole nostalgic creation borders on an artificial lake created during Peter Joseph Lenné's formation of the Charlottenhof areal. The so-called machine pond (Maschinenteich) gets its name from a steam engine house and adjacent pumpstation torn down in 1923. The large hull of a well marks the former location of the building. The steam engine was not just responsible for keeping the artificial waters of Charlottenhof moving – its smokestacks were also a symbol of progress and what was at this time highly-developed technology.