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: Joe Valerio (Fall 2004)


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North Point Competition model, Cambridge, Massachusetts (2003)

 

COMPETITIONS: As has been case with many architects, your career got a very big boost by virtue of winning a competition — Colton Palms Senior Apartments. Was that the very first competition you participated in?

 

VALERIO: No. It wasn’t the first, and it wasn’t the last. It was interesting in that we won, and also won a PA Design Award for it and an AIA Honor Award for the project when it was finished. It covered the gamut of awards that one could win with a project. And it got built almost exactly the way it was designed for the competition.

 

COMPETITIONS: Was the competition open or invited?

 

VALERIO: It was open, and there were about 140 entries from around the world. There were five finalists in the 2-stage competition, and we were selected at the end of the second stage.

 




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COMPETITIONS: Do you recall who ran that competition?

VALERIO: Michael Pittas, who did a very commendable job. The two key jurors were Rob Quigley and Don Lyndon. In hindsight, it was one of those things where all the stars were alligned and there was a very dynamic city manager (Frank Benest). This was his first job as city manager. He went on to become city manager in Brea, California, a wealthier suburb. Now he is city manager of Palo Alto. He recently said to me that one thing he was always trying to get communities to do was to invest in their downtowns. ‘Here in Palo Alto, nobody wants any more investment in downtown.’ Frank was very innovative, in that he used the competition process to get something to happen that probably could not have happened any other way. California in the early 90s had a law which said that, ‘if you set up a redevelopment district, you could capture the increase in real estate tax revenue in that district and use it to help finance the development.
   So it was a kind of bootstrap sort of approach called tiff financing, which is very popular all over the U.S., including in Chicago. You have to set aside 20% from that funding mechanism for
affordable housing. So everybody set up these greenbelt districts and this set-aside fund. But nobody wanted affordable housing, because affordable housing equated with subsidized housing. It didn’t matter that the people that really wanted to use the affordable housing were seniors from the community who didn’t want to leave, or policemen or firemen who couldn’t afford to live in communities they were serving. People were just against affordable housing.

 

Colton Palms Apartments (Competition winner 1988) Colton Palms, California
Photo: courtesy Valerio Dewalt Train
Colton Palms Apartments (Competition winner 1988) Colton Palms, California


So Frank came up with the idea, if he could create enough buzz about the project and really make it into this event, he could get the city to build affordable housing projects. It turned out that they had an abandoned grocery store in their old downtown area, which covered most of a city block. The city had taken control of the property. So he had the money and the set-aside. He had this piece of property which had to be redeveloped; but he couldn’t get the city to just do it. So he came up with this idea of doing a competition, hired Michael Pittas to organize it, and it worked. There was all this publicity and notoriety; this competition was like a city festival. It was a very public event where people showed up for the presentations. So not only was it an architectural event; but it had a real social underpinning that was really admirable. Without that mechanism, I doubt if Frank would have been successful.

 

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3Com office and production facility, Rolling Meadows, Illinois  Photos: courtesy Valerio Dewalt Train Associates


COMPETITIONS: In retrospect, would you have any clues as to why you won?

 

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