Paying Homage to a Storied Parliament Building

The Reichstag Visitors Center in Berlin/Tiergarten

 

 


Winning entry by Markus Schietsch (Image ©Markus Schietsch)

 

If ever there was a pressing need for a facility acting as arrival feature and processing point for a world-renowned landmark structure, a Visitors Center for the Reichstag had to be at the top of the list. Because it does house the sessions of the German parliament (Bundestag), it Is doubly important that a replacement for the present ad hoc arrangement be found, especially with rising security issues in mind.

 

This was not the first try at a solution to the issue. A futile attempt to arrive at a design for such a facility occurred back in 2012. But the discussion did not die, and an agreement was reached to stage an open competition in 2016 to reach a consensus for the design of the project. The fact that the competition was open and anonymous, rather than invited, could probably be attributed to recent pressure placed on the German Association of Architects (BDA) to give young architects the ability to participate on equal footing with established firms.

 

Located directly across the street from the Reichstag in the Tiergarten, this site was the only option for a visitors center. It was not too close to the Reichstag, so as to be in competition—or overwhelmed—by the Reichstag, but afforded the opportunity for the building to make a design statement in its own right. The space requirements for the new structure and the need for a tunnel serving as unimpeded access to the Reichstag resulted in a budget of €150M.

 

After two rounds of judging, beginning with 187 entries from around the world, the jury reduced the number of competitors to 28 in the first round, then finally settled on two first-place finalists, who were to refine their design in a second stage—one of which was to be commissioned to design the Center. The building itself is not the only project element, as a tunnel linking the Visitors Center from the Tiergarten to the Reichstag also is an essential part of the plan.

 

Upon viewing a number of the 187 entries, it is clear that the jury did not want to select a design that would in any way be in competition with the Reichstag building. The two first place designs selected reflected the jury’s attitude: both of the finalists, elegent in their own way, were modern versions of classical architecture, well suited to the site and program, but hardly intended to divert attention from the main event.

 

The premiated designs from the first stage were:

 

Winners (2)

 

• Markus Bonauer/Michael Bölling, Berlin with capattistaubach Landschaftsarchitekten
• Markus Schietsch, Zürich with Lorenz Eugster Landschaftsarchitektur & Städtebau GmbH

 

Honorable Mentions

 

• BGAA + FRPO Burgos & Garrido Arquitectos Asociados + FRPO Rodriguez & Oriol Arquitectos, Madrid (Spanien) with VWA + UBERLAND, Vevey (Schweiz)
• bob-architektur BDA, Köln with FSWLA GmbH, Düsseldorf
• Henn GmbH, Berlin with Ingenieurgesellschaft BBP Bauconsulting mbH, Berlin
• Allmann Sattler Wappner Architekten GmbH, München with Schüller Landschaftsarchitekten, München
• ARGE KIM NALLEWEG Architekten und César Trujillo Moya, Berlin with TDB Landschaftsarchitektur Thomanek Duquesnoy Boemans Partnerschaft, Berlin

 

Following the competition brief, both of the winners foresaw areas dedicated to seminars and communications—the story of the Reichstag will no doubt be on view—as well as a café, shop and coatcheck. It was probably no coincidence that there was a close resemblance in the architectural expression of both first place entries, as well as many of the other 157 entries—with many taking a clue from the Bauhaus and Mies.

 

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Recent Archive Updates

Interview: James Mary O’Connor FAIA (Winter 2017)

After receiving his Diploma in Architecture from the Dublin Institute of Technology and BS in Architecture from Trinity College in Dublin, James received his Masters in Architecture from the University of California, Los Angeles while a Fulbright Scholar in the U.S. Shortly after his time as a student in Charles Moore’s Master Class at UCLA, he joined the Moore firm in Los Angeles, now Moore Ruble Yudell. Beginning in the late 1980s, he was involved in the firm’s many projects in Germany, many of which dealt with masterplanning and the construction of large housing, primarily in Berlin. Subsequently, he was involved in the Potatisåkern Master Plan & Housing, as well as the Bo01 Housing Exhibition, both in Malmö, Sweden.
James was MRY’s point person in its subsequent involvement with the firm’s many projects in the People’s Republic of China, beginning with their winning competition proposal for the Century Center project in Beijing. Although unbuilt, it didn’t escape the notice of the Chinese, who invited the firm to participate in a competition for the Tianjin Xin-He large neighborhood masterplan—which they won. This was followed by the 2004 Chun Sen Bi An Housing Masterplan competition in the city of Chongqing, located in central China—completed in 2010. This high profile project resulted in a number of affordable and high-end housing projects throughout China. The firm’s most remarkable sustainability project was the COFCO Agricultural Eco-Valley Master Plan project outside Beijing, envisioned to become the first net zero-carbon project of its kind in the world.
In the meantime, the firm’s focus in China has evolved from its concentration on housing to institutional projects, such as the Shanghai University of Technology‘s research buildings. In the meantime MRY has been noted as a leader in the design of campus projects in the U.S. and abroad, as well as numerous government projects—courthouses and embassies.

 

 

Interview: Mark Robbins – Port of Kinmen Competition Juror (2014)

with Stanley Collyer

mrobbins01


COMPETITIONS: I’m not certain how familiar you were with previous competitions in Taiwan; but this one had much in common with previous ones, in that it was also international in format.

 

MARK ROBBINS: They are quite high profile for remarkably large-scale projects.

 

COMPETITIONS: This is similar to the others, and, like those, had two sessions. Were you able to take part in both of them?

 

MR: Yes. It was on Kinmen Island, which I had never been to. And it has an interesting history. First of all, the U.S. government has had to figure out the deaccessioning of the bases that were military. This is a large island that had been used for military purposes, for although it is part of Taiwan geographically, it is closer to the Chinese mainland and was shelled pretty relentlessly. But because it had been closed off to development during this period, it had a very natural environment—it has one of the highest levels of biodiversity of any area in Taiwan.

So the redevelopment of this becomes quite important, because you have an island, which is now strategically located, interestingly not for military reasons, but commercial reasons. This is expected to make it valuable because of the robust commerce between a Mainland China that still finds they can get a greater variety of consumer goods in Taiwan. Rather than flying goods in, it will be by boat, which is slower, but less expensive. So it will become a vast duty free area. And that was part of the motivation for this competition—to make a more accessible gateway for trade to and from Mainland China.

 

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Port of Kinmen winning entry

 

COMPETITIONS: Biodiversity caused by the lack of development during the Cold War brings to mind a similar situation in Germany on the demarcation line between East and West, where a large restricted strip on the eastern side of the border resulted in an untouched refuge for birds and various species.

 

MR: One seldom thinks of that. In Kinmen there are some of the best-preserved architectural artifacts, both from the Japanese colonial period and from earlier Chinese trading families. There are a series of buildings that have neoclassical detailing, but built around traditional courtyards in a Chinese format. These were families that wanted to display their wealth in the 1800s, through symbols displayed by western architecture. Because of the Cold War period and the lack of development, these were also preserved.

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