Exercise 1.3: Precedent Research: History and Geography

After carrying out a physical critique of the Reichstag, I then carried out an analysis of its history and location.

Built in 1894, originally designed by Paul Wallot and built on the site of an old palace, it was used by the German Empire (1871-1918) and the Weimar Republic (1919-33). Feb 27th 1933 the building caught fire and bombing during the second world war led to neglect, in postwar years it led to further deterioration. In 1970 it had undergone partial restoration and became a museum of german history.

The Reichstag building was designed by Paul Wallot and built southeast of the meander of the Spree. After ten years of construction work, the final stone was laid by Kaiser Wilhelm II on 5 December 1894. The six-story complex in the style of the Italian High Renaissance covers an area of about 13,290 square meters, and its four towers are 40 meters high. “Dem deutschen Volke” (To the German people) was inscribed above the main entrance in 1916.

The events of 9 November 1918, when the Social Democrat and member of parliament Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the republic from one of the windows of the building, focused political attention on the Reichstag. The democratic constitution of the first German republic, passed in Weimar on 11 August 1919 by the National Assembly, expanded the parliament’s authority considerably.

The Reichstag building suffered heavy damage in bombing raids during World War II, and the fight to take the building continued until the very end. In 1955, the Bundestag decided to rebuild it, although without a dome, the original of which had been demolished in 1954 because it was structurally unsound. Renovation was carried out according to plans by Paul Baumgarten and not completed until 1972. The decorative figures that had been destroyed were not restored, and the façade was simplified. Despite the restrictions on use mandated by the Four-Power Agreement, parliamentary committees and groups met in the Reichstag building as often as possible. On 4 October 1990, the first parliament representing all of Germany and consisting of members of the Bundestag and former members of the GDR’s Volkskammer (People’s Chamber) met in the plenary chamber of the Reichstag building, followed two months later by the first sessions of the freely elected, all-German Bundestag beginning on 20 December 1990. (Berlin.de,s.d)

Although British Architect Norman Foster had won the competition he entered to design and rebuild the Reichstag, the German Parliament oversaw the decisions on the design. Originally, Foster’s design didn’t include a dome and a german architect proposed adding a reconstruction of the dome, which threatened Foster’s vision for the interior. He then began exploring ideas for what he came to call the ‘cupola’. He had originally planned a neutral palette of whites and greys, this was overshadowed by a politician who insisted on a bright colour scheme. Although Foster was faced with demanding and often contradictory clients, he took great pride in the outcome. He understood the importance of creating the design for the German people and he notes how important it is that both the public and politicians enter the building through the same entrance.

Norman Foster was inspired by environmental design. The cupola drives the buildings natural lighting and ventilation strategies. The centre light sculptor reflects horizon light down the chamber, while a sun shield tracks the path of the sun to block solar gain and glare. As night falls the process is reversed. The building burns renewable bio fuel – refined vegetable oil – in a cogenerator to produce electricity, a system that is cleaner than burning fossil fuels, which results in 94% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Surplus heat is stored as hot water in an aquifer deep below ground which can be pumped up to heat the building or to drive an absorption cooling plant to produce chilled water. (Foster & Partners, s.d)


Berlin in Brief: The Reichstag Building https://www.berlin.de/berlin-im-ueberblick/en/history/the-new-berlin/artikel.453018.en.php (accessed on 16.04.2019)

Foster & Partners Fosterandpartners.com https://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/reichstag-new-german-parliament/ (accessed on 16.04.2019)

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