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Germans Choose 3 Foreign Architects In Parliament Design Competition

February 19, 1993

BERLIN (AP) _ Will Germany’s parliament building look like ″heaven over Berlin,″ or will it have a soaring dome? How about an almost-subterranean debating chamber?

The search for a design for Germany’s old Reichstag building narrowed Friday to three foreign architects, each with radically different ideas for transforming the 99-year-old building into united Germany’s parliament.

Berlin architect Axel Schultes won a separate design competition for the government quarter to be built around the Reichstag. His concept of low buildings linking the eastern and western halves of the formerly divided city was chosen from among 835 entries from around the world.

The selections are a key step toward beginning billions of dollars worth of construction projects that will eventually permit Germany’s Parliament and government to move from Bonn to Berlin.

The two competitions attracted entries from 44 nations, Construction Minister Irmgard Schwaetzer told 300 journalists at the Reichstag. The war- torn building served as Germany’s parliament from 1894 until 1933, when Adolf Hitler shut down the democratically elected body.

The three finalists were British architect Sir Norman Foster, Pi de Bruijn and associates of the Netherlands and Spanish-born Santiago Calatrava, who is based in Zurich, Switzerland. They won $73,000 each for their designs.

The designs go to Parliament for consideration, and a decision is expected this summer.

Foster’s design puts an immense cloud-like pavilion over the building and was quickly dubbed ″Himmel ueber Berlin,″ or ″Heaven over Berlin,″ the title of the Wim Wenders film known in English as ″Wings of Desire.″

De Bruijn, who designed an addition to the Dutch parliament in The Hague, would keep the current look of the Reichstag and flank it with a modern office building. The legislative chamber would be in front, below ground level.

Calatrava’s is the only design that would restore something like the high glass dome the Reichstag originally had when it was dedicated in 1894 during the Prussian-led German Imperial era.

The flattened look of today’s Reichstag, which has squat towers on the four corners of the building, dates from a fire in 1933 and the destruction of World War II.

The fire, purportedly set by a Dutch Communist who was later beheaded, served as Hitler’s excuse for declaring an emergency and closing down parliament.

Schultes’ winning design for the government buildings surrounding the Reichstag leaves a long stretch of lawn in front and puts the chancellor’s office and other buildings on a straight line across a sweeping bend in the Spree River.

The government quarter will stretch from the Tiergarten park through the Brandenburg Gate into former East Berlin, where some of Communist East Germany’s office buildings will again be used.

The architects on the prize juries recommended that the artist Christo be permitted to ″wrap″ the Reichstag in silver fabric this summer before work starts on the building. The Bulgarian-born Christo, who is based in New York, says he has hoped for decades to employ his symbolic art on the Reichstag.

Legislators must vote whether to permit Christo’s project.

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