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: Ralph Johnson of Perkins+Will (Fall 1995)

shanghai-museum-c
COMPETITIONS: you have been in both open and invited compe-titions—both as a juror and as a participant. Which type do you prefer and why?

 

RALPH JOHNSON: I think both are viable. For a young architect, open competitions are great, because they are not going to get invited. It’s a way for young architects to break into a bigger scope of work. It’s an oppor-tunity for someone who doesn’t have the experience in that particular building type to get into a new area.
Shanghai Natural History Museum Photos: courtesy Perkins and Will

 

An invited competition usually involves some kind of portfolio or resume of the firm’s work, and you usually get selected on experience in that particular building type. In the latter case, you are probably dealing with fairly extensive presentation requirements and a big outlay of money. It often also involves a couple of stages. If the compensation is adequate, which is usually six figures—$100,000-$200,000—it’s great. Most of the time, it’s inadequate. For the recent (Beirut Conference Center) competition, we did in Lebanon, it was $200,000, and that was enough to cover (our) costs. So there are benefits for both types of competitions.

 

COMPETITIONS: And as a panelist?

 

RJ: It’s much more difficult to jury the open ones because it takes longer. I was on the Astronaut Memorial jury, and there were over 600 entries. You normally don’t interview the architect; it’s single-stage. It’s more a process of winnowing out inadequate submissions—which is easy to do—and getting down to the ten percent after the first cut. In the case of an invited competition, you have five to ten submissions from very qualified firms. I think it’s good if you can actually interview firms and have a question and answer period. In an open competition, it’s almost inevitable that you wonder who is actually doing the project, how qualified the architect is. It’s hard to keep that out of your mind.

 

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Shanghai Natural History Museum Photos: courtesy Perkins and Will

 

COMPETITIONS: In other words, the presentation isn’t necessarily an indication of the qualifications of the designer?

 

RJ: I wasn’t on the jury in the case of the Vietnam Memorial, which was a famous competition. There were very sketchy charcoal drawings (by Maya Lin), which really didn’t indicate anything other than conceptual design capabilities. How could you possibly come to any conclusion of technical competence based on those drawings? You really have to read into it and assume a lot in terms of the person. In that case, of course, it was a great success as a non-complex building type. As a laboratory or something else, it’s a different story.

 

COMPETITIONS: There are a number of anecdotes concerning jurors speculating about the author behind a competition entry—the one in Paris resulting in the Grand Arch is an example. Richard Rogers, a competition juror, supposedly remarked to another juror, Richard Meier, that the author of what eventually turned out to be the winning design, “might be a nobody.” Meier reminded Rogers that, before Pompidou, he was a “nobody.”

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