The transformation of the Reichstag is rooted in four related issues: the Bundestag's significance as a democratic forum, an understanding of history, a commitment to accessibility and a vigorous environmental agenda. As found, the Reichstag was mutilated by war and insensitive rebuilding. The reconstruction takes cues from the original fabric; the layers of history were peeled away to reveal striking imprints of the past - stonemason's marks and Russian graffiti − scars that have been preserved as a 'living museum'. But in other respects it is a radical departure; within its heavy shell it is light and transparent, its activities on view.
Public and politicians enter the building together and the public realm continues on the roof in the terrace restaurant and in the cupola, where ramps lead to an observation platform, allowing people to ascend symbolically above the heads of their representatives in the chamber. The cupola is now an established Berlin landmark. Symbolic of rebirth, it also drives the building's natural lighting and ventilation strategies. At its core is a 'light sculptor' that reflects horizon light down into the chamber, while a sun-shield tracks the path of the sun to block solar gain and glare. As night falls, this process is reversed - the cupola becomes a beacon on the skyline, signalling the vigour of the German democratic process.
The building provides a model for sustainability by burning renewable bio-fuel - refined vegetable oil − in a cogenerator to produce electricity: a system that is far cleaner than burning fossil fuels. The result is a 94 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Surplus heat is stored as hot water in an aquifer deep below ground and can be pumped up to heat the building or to drive an absorption cooling plant to produce chilled water. Significantly, the building's energy requirements are modest enough to allow it to produce more energy than it consumes and to perform as a mini power station in the new government quarter.
Sketches + Drawings
Site + Climate
The design utilises natural light as an architectural feature. Careful attention was paid to the sun's movement around the building and how this could be used to bring light into the space.
Form + Massing
The renovation project sought to bring light, and openness into the building. To accomplish this, a large dome shaped sky light was installed to help capture and reflect daylight deep within the structure.
The solar collector brings natural lighting into the heart of the building, whilst an automated solar shade protects against unwanted, direct solar gain. The main chamber of parliament is naturally ventilated via the cupola.
The building was designed to optimise the use of passive systems whilst minimising active systems. Both the artificial lighting and ventilation are controlled by a central BMS system and a heat exchanger recovers waste heat from the exhaust air.
A biofuel powered, Combined Heat and Power (CHP) provides approximately 80% of the annual electricity and 90% of the heat load of the building. A large Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) acts as a seasonal store of both heat and coolth. Photovoltaic's on the roof power the solar shade within the light sculpture.
The CHP and GSHP units, at peak operation, provide energy to both the Reichstag and surrounding government buildings.
Mobility + Connectivity
There are public transport links near to the building and a large number of bike racks for both staff and visitors.
Materials + Waste
The design aimed to protect and maintain the masonry shell of the heritage building, whilst redeveloping some of the core areas. By retaining most of the original building structure, construction and demolition waste was significantly reduced.
Inside the building low flow fixtures and fittings were selected to help reduce the potable water requirements. All landscaping is either low maintenance or hardscaping, to minimise water usage.
Land + Ecology
The bio-fuel used to power the CHP unit is derived from locally produced rapeseed vegetable oil. The Reichstag, next to the River Spree, is surrounded by landscaped areas, with a mix of biological diversity that is protected and managed.
Culture + Heritage
In stripping back previous reconstruction to the building, striking imprints from the past were unearthed, including graffiti left by Soviet soldiers. These discoverers influenced the design, creating a space that sought to become a 'living museum' of German history. Drawing light into the heart of the building, helped to create an open and visible platform for the German democratic process.
The design sought to bring light and fresh air into the heart of the Reichstag, improving user wellbeing. The addition of viewing galleries and breakout spaces have brought additional amenities to the building.
The use of a locally produced biodiesel has helped protect and enhance the local agricultural economy. Increased tourist numbers to the Reichstag, has bought added benefits to the immediate vicinity.
Planning for Change
Creating a building that was open and honest about it's past has helped it become open-minded and forward-thinking about its future. The Reichstag has now become a beacon, signalling the vigour of the German democratic process.
Performance in Use
The operational energy profile for The Reichstag, shows that it uses 57% less primary energy than typical existing buildings, and 39% less than the requirements for new buildings.
“Foster did the best job I've ever seen on public architecture.”
Architectural Digest, May 2000
“I believed that if we were to introduce a symbolically resonant structure that would signal the changed use of the building then that structure should also be an integral part of the buildings ecology.”
“The new, renovated Reichstag is something of magnificent fishbowl, and a light, elegant contrast to its heavy container ... It is a convincing expression of the new German democracy.”
World of Interiors, August 1999
“Norman Foster ha successfully connected new and old, past and present so that the Reichstag’s new interiors meet our expectations of this epic building, but at the same time are welcoming not forbidding.”
Jonathan Glancey. The Guardian
“The main impression one has of this revamped monument is space; volumes of the valuable stuff, stretching upwards and outwards in every direction. Space and light.”
19 April 1999
“Instead of being a labyrinth of corridors and smoke-filled rooms, parliament has become as transparent as a goldfish bowl.”
The Sunday Telegraph, 16 May 1999
Facts + Figures
- Appointment: 1992
- Completion: 1999
- Area: 61,166m²
- Client: Bundesrepulik Deutschland
- Structural Engineer: Arup/ Shlaich Bergermann & Partner/ Leonhardt Andrä & Partner
- Quantity Surveyor: Davis Langdon & Everest/ Buro Am Lutzowplatz
- M+E Engineer: Kaiser Bautechnik/ Fischer- Energie and Haustech/Planungsgruppe Karnasch-Hackstein/ Kuehn Associates
- Lighting Engineer: Claude Engle
- Architekturpreis 2000 des BDA Berlin Auszeichnung
- The Design Sense Corporate Award
- Preis des Deutschen Stahlbaus 2000
- Eurosolar ‘German Solar Prize in the field of Renewable Energies’
- ECCS European Award for Steel Structures - New Dome at the
- Deutscher Architekturpreis
- Architects' Journal and Bovis Europe Grand Award for Architecture at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
- DuPont Benedictus Award - Special Recognition
- Design Council Millennium Product Award
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