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.

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Russian Open Competition for Alternative Layout Design in Standard Housing

1st category prize entry by AKVS (Image courtesy STRELKA-KB, © AKVS Architecture)



Of all the nations that had been part of the Soviet Bloc after World War II, only the Russian Federation itself has lagged behind most of its neighbors in the design and construction of affordable housing. During that post-Cold War period, housing construction in cities such as Moscow struggled to keep up with demand. The result of this has been some of the most crowded urban conditions in Europe. Privacy has been an issue, whereby more than one family has oftentimes occupied a small apartment, possibly only separated by a curtain. Thus, in this housing competition, where the focus was primarily on layout design, it was not unusual to see how the various competitors addressed this issue.



According to the competition brief, the aim of the competition was “to create comfortable living environments for Russian citizens. It challenged contestants to design planning layouts for five apartments of a medium size and five apartments of a large size, for three out of four proposed building types.”


Image courtesy STRELKA-KB


Here it is worth noting that the anticipated size of a studio apartment for the purposes of this competition was between 225-270 sq ft, whereas the average studio (one-room) apartment in the U.S. is between 500-600 sq ft. Thus, all of the other models were also smaller than one would find in the West. But everything being relative, apartments based on these models would be a marked improvement in many respects for the average Russian consumer.


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