The five basic types of the Berlin gaslamps



Archetype lamp by night and by day
©Gaslicht-Kultur e.V.

1. Archetype lamps

Quantity: 1.200
In use since: 1892
Number of mantles: 4
Mast form: Compound pillar mast
Mostly to be found in: Charlottenburg, Spandau
Worth seeing: Chamissoplatz, Kreuzberg

Standardized model of the Berlin Municipal Gasworks of 1892/93 was the archetype lamp, better known as the "Schinkelleuchte". The design of this lamp was a further development of earlier designs by Karl Friedrich Schinkel.

The original design of this model was equipped with two gas mantles. From the 1950s, these lamps were converted to the version with four mantles widespread today. In the course of these modifications, however, most of these lamps were replaced by so-called top-piece lamps of the U7 type, which are introduced below. Most of these lamps are mounted on ornate masts known as compound pillar masts. In some places in Berlin, such as the historical parts of Spandau, this form is mounted on wall brackets. An alternative form is the candelabra with two, three or five lamps on it. There is an original five-lamp candelabra from 1903 in Schloßstraße and at Karl-August-Platz in Charlottenburg. Today you can find faithful reproductions of this candelabra in Wilmersdorfer Straße, at Stuttgarter Platz and in the open-air gaslamp museum. There are other five-lamp models at Hohenzollernplatz in Nikolassee and in front of the subway station Dahlem-Dorf. Two- and three-lamp versions of this candelabra can be found in Alt-Tegel and other places in Berlin.

Berlin still has about 1,200 examples of archetype lamps on compound pillar masts like the ones shown here. They are mainly to be found in the vicinity of Charlottenburg Palace, around Chamissoplatz in Kreuzberg, in the Heerstraße neighbourhood and in the historic centre of Spandau (on wall brackets in this case), but also in other streets and squares or in the Hermsdorf, Lübars, Tegel, Wilmersdorf, Marienfelde and Lichtenrade districts.



Aufsatzleuchte Top-piece lamp by night and by day ©Gaslicht-Kultur e.V.

2. Top-piece lamps

Quantity: 30.000
In use since: 1920s
Number of mantles: 4, rarely 6
Mast form: bundle pillar and steel masts
Mostly to be found in: downtown districts
Worth seeing: Leonhardtstr., Charlottenburg

This type is the best-known type of gaslamp in Berlin, and it came up in the 1920s. In its present form with the name "BAMAG U7", this type has been in use since the 1950s to replace older archetype lights or top-piece lamps and to reduce the distances between the existing gas streetlights. There are about 30,000 examples of this most common Berlin gas streetlight.

Right from the beginning, these lamps usually had four mantles, but there are a few rare specimens with six mantles. Like the archetype lamps, the heads of these lamps are mounted on compound pillar masts, and some are mounted on normal steel masts of various designs. Some of the compound pillar masts bear the letters I.C.G.A. This is the abbreviation for the former mast manufacturer "Intercontinental Gas Association" and means that these masts are over 100 years old. As the gas flows through the masts, they cannot corrode from the inside, so the masts are still almost as good as new, even after such a long time.

In some districts of Berlin such as Köpenick, Biesdorf, Kaulsdorf and Mahlsdorf, you can find lamps produced in the GDR with heads of "Graetzin" type with a conical roof made of black bakelite. Top-piece lamps now completely illuminate large parts of western Berlin from north to south and are almost exclusively to be found in residential streets. Leonhardtstraße in Charlottenburg is a special case: there the lamps are in double rows on the pavements.



Hängeleuchte Suspended lamp by night and by day ©Gaslicht-Kultur e.V.

3. Suspended Lamps

Quantity: 3.600
In use since: Early 20th century
Number of mantles: 4 or 9
Mast form: "Gallows", „Large Bishop's Staff“
Mostly to be found in: western districts
Worth seeing: Schloßstraße, Charlottenburg

Suspended lamps were installed in Berlin in the early 20th century. They were most widespread during the thirty-year period from 1920 to 1950. Because their light point is higher above the pavement, these lamps are especially suitable for busy thoroughfares. The BAMAG A11 type, which is most widespread today, has been in use in the Western districts of Berlin since the 1940s. Most suspended lamps have four or nine gas mantles. They are mounted on different masts, some of which are richly decorated. These masts usually stem from the times of the preceding models. Some conspicuous mast forms are the so-called Großer Galgen ("large gallows")and the Großer Bischofsstab ("large bishop's staff").

Other variants of suspended lamps called "Graetzin" were produced in East Germany and still exist in Köpenick, Biesdorf, Kaulsdorf and Mahlsdorf. Starting in the 1950s, suspended lamps in thoroughfares were replaced by more modern in-line lamps. About 4,000 suspended lamps still exist in Berlin today, most of them in Kreuzberg. Two pilot projects can be found in Sophie-Charlotten-Straße (Charlottenburg) and in Reichenberger Straße (Kreuzberg): here suspended lamps with nine mantles illuminate the street and archetype or U7 top-piece lamps illuminate the pavements. These projects were realized in cooperation with Gaslicht-Kultur (formerly Gaslichtinitiative Berlin) and averted the electrification of these two streets.



Reihenleuchte In-line lamp by night and by day ©Gaslicht-Kultur e.V.

4. In-line lamps

Quantity: 4.500
In use since: 1950s
Number of mantles: 4, 6 or 9
Mast form:Mostly whip-shaped
Mostly to be found in: Frohnau, South of Berlin
Worth seeing: Bismarckallee, Grunewald

They were the last new development in gas streetlighting and often replaced suspended lamps on thoroughfares and broad side streets. Most newly built streets were also equipped with them. The type which is prevalent today (called BAMAG U13H) exists in three sizes, with four, six or nine mantles. The heads of this model were mounted on different mast forms, most typically "whip masts", but there were also so-called extension arm masts, which in turn were made from the masts of former suspended lamps.

The in-line lamp is an original Berlin development. It was developed in the early 1950s by engineer Wilhem Hilterhaus, long-time head of the department of streetlighting at GASAG, Berlin's municipal gas company. The in-line lamp ensured the survival of gas streetlighting, which was in fierce competition with electric lighting at the time. The lamp head as well as the typical whip-shaped mast were developed and tested at the GASAG premises in Torgauer Straße. The gas mantles that were arranged in a line and were designed in response to the electric striplight, which was also developed in the early 1950s. As the gas mantles were arranged in the form of steps, ideal light efficiency was reached as the mantles no longer cast a shadow on each other.

There are still 8,400 on-line lamps in the streets of Berlin, many of them in Frohnau and in southern districts. One of the most beautiful streets with magnificent nine-mantle in-line lamps is Bismarckallee in Grunewald. It is well worth passing through here at night.

In-line lamps are the backbone of Berlin's gas streetlighting. In conjunction with the other types of lamps, they form ensembles typical for the city. Several types of lamps are grouped together as a unit in a confined space depending on their original function in traffic engineering. In-line lamps will be the first to disappear in the course of the next few years if the plans of the Berlin Senate come into effect.



Paellaleuchte Cylindrical lamp by night and by day ©Gaslicht-Kultur e.V.

5. Cylindrical lamps

Quantity: 80
In use since: 2000
Number of mantles: 4
Mast form: Modern steel mast
Mostly to be found in: Gatow, Buchholz
Worth seeing: Jürgen-Schramm-Str., Gatow

The in-line lamp described above was the last great innovation in gas streetlighting. However, the last new development was actually the so called cylindrical lamp, often called modern top-piece lamp or "paella pan". For this modern gaslamp with four mantles, the latest gas lighting technology was installed in ordinary electric lamps. Cylindrical lamps were developed by Michael Kraft, the last head of the gas lighting department at GASAG. He was virtually the successor to Wilhelm Hilterhaus mentioned above and also achieved other improvements in gas lighting. Cylindrical lamps were installed in new housing estates in Gatow and Buchholz in the year 2000.

However, Berlin now no longer pursues the strategy of consistently improving gas lighting and making it more and more economical. For this reason, cylindrical lamps only play a minor role in the Berlin cityscape. One of the places in which you can view these lamps is Jürgen-Schramm-Straße in Gatow and its side-streets.