Past Imperfect: a Transparent Dome for a Reborn Reichstag


After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, German unification followed, and soon the decision was taken to move the capital back to Berlin. The old Reichstag (a clumsy 19th century building damaged during the war, and scantily used since, associated with the worst of German history) would again house the Parliament, and a competition was called in 1992 to adapt it for a democratic rebirth. Foster won with a giant textile canopy that shrouded and sheltered the existent building, while most of the programme was fitted in a podium; a reduction in the uses did away with podium and canopy, leaving only one of its lens-shaped translucent pieces as the roof of the chamber; and the final version replaced the lens by a glass cupola (externally similar to the original transparent dome) that brings natural light to the chamber and extracts air through a spectacular mirrored funnel, and that also serves as a public viewing platform, thus symbolically placing the citizens above their representatives. Finished in 1999, the building is exemplary in its democratic values and in the ecological use of energy; but over all admirable in a laconic detailing that integrates effortlessly works of contemporary art and leaves exposed —Soviet graffiti included— the pedagogic scars of German history...[+]

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