Spreebogen Takes a Final Lap

Plans for the Final Expansion of Schultes’ Federal Chancellery Building

Aerial view with new addition at bottom of site (Image © Schultes Frank Architekten)


The reunification of Germany in 1989 not only had a great impact on the lives of many Germans, especially those living in the former DDR,
but together with the decision to move the nation’s capital from Bonn to Berlin resulted in two major international design competitions in 1992: the first was to convert the existing Reichstag building into a home for the German parliament, the second being the Spreebogen planning competition, which included a chancellery for the head of state as well as needed buildings nearby for the Federal government. 


Many will recall that the Reichstag competition was won in a second stage by Norman Foster. The difference between the firm’s initial proposal in the open stage and the final solution in the second stage would seem to lend credence to the rumor that others in the firm were responsible for the initial proposal, though Foster himself may have seen it before it was submitted. 



The 1992-93 Spreebogen planning competition, the most significant urban planning competition to occur in Europe in the 20th Century, drew 825 entries from around the world, including 96 from the U.S. It called for 5 million square feet of new government buildings, including the Federal Chancellery, the Federal Council and the Reichstag together with its related facilities on the Spreebogen site. Won by Schultes/Frank of Berlin by a very large majority of the jury vote, it was followed by opposition from powerful politicians, who were successful in demanding a second, final stage to be contested by the First, Second, and Fourth Place winners who were to respond to a list of criticisms formulated by the Ministry of Regional Planning, Building, and Urban Design. The revision stage was completed in June 1993, and, once again, confirmed by a large majority, the Schultes/Frank scheme was the jury’s overwhelming choice.*


It was almost immediately followed by an invited competition for the Chancellery building itself—also won by Schultes and completed in 2001. This was the first building block of the Spreebogen design, followed by the construction of several government buildings to the north of the Reichstag and spanning the Spree River to the east.



The final, western phase of the Spreebogen concept has recently been approved by the government and will address needed additional space for the Chancellery. Already ten times the size of the U.S. White House, it will be connected by a bridge to the Winter Garden park on the other side of the Spree to the west, and have room for 400 offices now scattered throughout in the city. Scheduled for completion in 2027, the complete realization of the Spreebogen plan will then have taken no less than 44 years.


*Karen van Lengen, competition juror, COMPETITIONS, Vol. 3, #3 (1993) p. 12



All above images ©Schultes Frank Architekten