Michiel Matthijsz Smids (Rotterdam 1626-Berlijn 1692). Keurvorstelijk bouwmeester in Brandenburg
Michiel Matthijsz Smids (1626-1692) is to be considered as one of the most important building contractors in Brandenburg in the 17th century. As one of many, he left his home country shortly after the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and was active in the redevelopment of Brandenburg. From the year 1652 onward, he played an important role in ship- mill- and lock building as well as wood trading. Beside of that, he was appointed as a courtly building master. In this position he led the works on many building projects, which were initiated by the elector of Brandenburg. Still, he was not active as an architect.
It was Johann Gregor Memhardt who was the leading personality to provide with architectural designs, as well as the planning of the Berlin fortification and other projects. Smids cooperated very closely with Memhardt as executer of his plans. Examples of such projects were the realisation of the palace of Oranienburg, along with its garden, the enlargement of the church and an orphanage. He was responsible for the digging of the Müllrose channel, that connected the Elbe with the Oder and for the building of locks and bridges. He built a bridge in Köpenick, several water- and windmills and founded a cannonball factory in the vicinity of Zehdenick.
In Potsdam Smids was responsible for the enlargement of the palace and the building of a greenery, stables and dwelling houses. In Berlin his activities were comparable to that. He rebuilt the tower of St. Maries church, he rebuilt the electoral stables, was active in the enlargement of the town and had many tasks in the enlargement of the palace. He also built a greenhouse in Berlin and started the construction works of a new library.
The building of dwelling houses took place in close cooperation with Johann Arnold Nering, who had taken over Memhardts place as leading architect of his time. Minor building projects were to be found in the town of Schwedt, were Smids took part in the rebuilding of the town after a great fire in 1681, in Frankfurt/Oder, Caputh, Schenkendorf and other places.
In his long carreer, Smids was involved in many projects, in which Dutch influences can be traced. As a central figure in a broader network of building commissioners, architects and craftsmen, Smids was of major importance in the redevelopment of Brandenburg. The fact that he was able to pre-finance huge building projects, that he managed to build up a wood trading activity and that he was appointed as electoral building master, enabled him to gather an enormous fortune. The continuity and diversity of his activities made it possible to follow him through the years, although hardly any of the projects that he was involved in, is still existing today.