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: Axel Schultes (Spring 1997)

 

with Stanley Collyer

 


Bundeskanzleramt Berlin Competition (1996); Completion (2000) Photo: courtesy Schultes Frank Architekten

 

COMPETITIONS: In our last conversation, we talked about the whole issue of Berlin's identity and what approach one should use in reconstructing the urban fabric between East and West—where the wall used to be.

 

Axel Schultes: Maybe I learned something during a recent lecture I gave in Palermo (Italy). Afterwards, some German specialists in philosophy and German thinking—brilliant people, I must say—came up to me and said, 'What you said about Berlin and what you are doing there with the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleiamt), for us is what Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin talked about, especially when they looked at Italy and the cities in Italy. We noticed immediately in your work that (same) issue of porosity.' Both used this term: Benjamin wrote a small article on Naples, and Bloch wrote about Italy as a whole.

 

We always had a tendency to avoid the term, 'transparency.' Transparency is usually the use of glass to make buildings less alienating to someone outside. But for us, glass is no material to create spaces; so transparency as we see it is depths of spaces or layering. Porosity is something much more precise—what we strive for. We wanted the same effect in Friedrichstrasse (Interior Mall): it should not be this close-up thing of the Galeries Lafayette (Jean Nouvel) or Ungers, where you only have some holes in it. Porosity for us is like a sponge—to enable a building to fill up with life, to turn a private space into a public one by penetrating it with a public space. The old buildings in Berlin are examples of this, with two, three, sometimes even four interior public spaces.

 


Berlin Baumschulenweg Crematory (1993)

 

 

COMPETITIONS: You are referring to the interior courtyards (Hinterhöfe)?

AS: Yes. Nothing of this sort exists anymore in Berlin. Most buildings (at the street) are flat, sometimes elegant, sometime ugly. The Galeries Lafayette, with all its glass, is as closed (to the outside) as one of Unger's sandstone buildings. It's the same issue in the construction of every building. Take, for instance, the Berlin Schloss (the palace in the center of Berlin), which was completely demolished after WWII, and which some people think should be resurrected. This has been on our mind constantly.*

 

It would be such a contrast to urbanism—needing to punch holes in it to get inside—open to all the people and all walks of life. I can give many examples of this, for me very northern, very restrained, very alien to everything which infuses a culture with life. All the people here like Kohlhof, Ungers, Kleihues, etc.; all have that tendency of closing. Even Libeskind—and maybe he doesn't think about it or want to have it appear in such a manner—does it with the Jewish Museum where there is no penetration. There is always this hiding, this animosity to the urban fabric. They are not interested in breaking it up.

 


Bonn Art Museum - Competition (1985) Completion (1992)

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