Reichstag building

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Reichstag building
The Reichstag building, 2007

The Reichstag building, 2007

place Berlin
builder Paul Wallot
Construction year 1884-1894
height 47 m
Floor space 13,290 m²
Coordinates 52 ° 31 '7 "  N , 13 ° 22' 34"  E Coordinates: 52 ° 31 '7 "  N , 13 ° 22' 34"  E
Seat of the German Bundestag

The Reichstag building (short: Reichstag ; officially: plenary area Reichstag building ; unofficially also Bundestag or Wallot building ) on Platz der Republik in Berlin has been the seat of the German Bundestag since 1999 . The Federal Assembly has also met here since 1994 to elect the German Federal President .

The building was built according to plans by the architect Paul Wallot between 1884 and 1894 in the neo-renaissance style in the Tiergarten district on the left bank of the Spree . It housed both the Reichstag of the German Empire and that of the Weimar Republic . Initially, the Federal Council of the German Empire also met there . After severe damage from the Reichstag fire of 1933 and the Second World War , the building was restored in a modernized form in the 1960s and was used for exhibitions and special events. From 1995 to 1999, the Reichstag was fundamentally redesigned by Norman Foster for permanent use as a parliament building, which was decided in 1991 . On April 19, 1999 the keys were handed over to the President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Thierse . The German Bundestag has been meeting there ever since. The accessible glass dome above the plenary hall is striking in the cityscape .

To the prehistory

Provisional arrangements

Provisional facility at Leipziger Strasse  4

The first seat of a Reichstag in Berlin was the Prussian mansion at Leipziger Strasse  3. From 1867 the Reichstag of the Prussian- dominated North German Confederation met here . After the establishment of the German Empire in 1871, the representatives of the southern German states joined them, so that a larger building was needed. They first moved into the Prussian House of Representatives ( Leipziger Strasse  75). Soon this also turned out to be too small. The Reichstag adopted on 19 April 1871 an application, which stated: "The establishment of the tasks corresponding of the German Reichstag and the representation of the German people appreciate Parliament House is an urgent need." Another, won with a view of the recently Victory over France and the founding of an empire, a strongly nationalist proposal for the new building did not find a majority.

A parliament building commission should prepare for a "worthy" new building. The task was to determine the construction site, develop the construction program, advertise an architectural competition and find a suitable interim solution. A temporary solution was quickly found: in just 70 days, the building at Leipziger Strasse 4, previously the seat of the Royal Porcelain Manufactory , was made suitable for parliamentary operations. A transition period of five to six years was expected. In fact, it was 23 years.


Eastern part of Königsplatz with Palais Raczyński around 1880, view from the (later relocated) Victory Column

The problems began with the choice of a suitable plot of land for the new building. After a brief search, the commission determined a building site on the east side of what was then Königsplatz (today: Platz der Republik ). However, the palace of the Polish Count Athanasius Raczynski , a Prussian diplomat and art collector, still stood there . However, the commission members believed that they could count on the support of Emperor Wilhelm I and thus ultimately also on the Count's approval, and announced an international competition for this property.

The competition, in which over a hundred architects took part, was won by Ludwig Bohnstedt from Gotha in June 1872 . His design met with great public approval, but could not be implemented. Count Raczyński resolutely refused to make his property available, and Wilhelm I showed little inclination to pursue expropriation proceedings, although he too found the location suitable.

Ludwig Bohnstedt's competition design, 1872

Little by little, the commission agreed on an alternative location further east, closer to the city ​​center . Bismarck , Wilhelm I and the Conservative MPs vehemently rejected this building site, however, as the Reichstag moved closer to the city ​​palace , which was interpreted as a political upgrading of the parliament. In 1881 the first choice of location could be used. The Raczyński Palace had been sold to the Prussian state in 1874, and the count had died in 1878.


In December 1881 the Reichstag decided to purchase the building site. A lively public discussion arose around the question of whether Ludwig Bohnstedt should be commissioned out of competition to rework and execute his victorious design from 1872.

Wallot's competition draft, 1882

In February 1882, however, a new competition was announced, to which this time only architects “German tongue” were allowed - a requirement of the Association of German Architects and Engineers Associations . Large prize money invited to participate. Bohnstedt also took part again, but had no chance, as did Heinrich von Ferstel , for example . From 189 anonymous submissions, the designs by Paul Wallot from Frankfurt am Main and Friedrich von Thiersch from Munich emerged as the winners; both received first prizes on June 24, 1882. But since Wallot clearly had more votes on his side (19 of 21), he got the coveted order. On June 9, 1883, the associated budget was approved. This was preceded by a speech duel between August Reichensperger , who considered a Gothic design to be German as Wallot's Renaissance building, and its proponent Robert Gerwig .

A long and arduous work process began for the architect, a constant dispute with several responsible authorities. According to a resolution of 1880, the Academy of Civil Engineering should definitely be involved as a consultant for the future construction of a new Reichstag building - an unfortunate arrangement because many academy members were involved in the previous competition with their own designs. The Academy has not been shown to have acted incorrectly, but its frequent, unusually pedantic criticism of Wallot's work raised doubts about its objectivity , which were also voiced in public.

Kaiser Wilhelm I laying the foundation stone

The construction department in the Prussian Ministry of Public Works as the second expert authority also requested far-reaching changes. Wallot himself remained patient on the outside and only complained in personal letters. Every few months he had to deliver new designs for the arrangement of the interiors and the design of the facades . In the end, independent observers believed that they would no longer recognize the award-winning design.

Finally, on June 9, 1884, the foundation stone was laid. A lot of the military and only a few parliamentarians attended the rainy ceremony. Three Hohenzollern had the main roles: Kaiser Wilhelm I as well as his son and grandson - the later Kaiser Friedrich III. and Wilhelm II. When Wilhelm I hit the hammer , the symbolic tool shattered.


Exterior shape

Reichstag building in the construction phase, 1888
The Reichstag building around 1895

During the construction work, the dome became a particular problem. Wallot had been forced by various objections to move it from its central position above the plenary chamber to the western entrance hall. According to this plan, the building has now been built by the Berlin stonemason company Zeidler & Wimmel . The plastic jewelry came from the sculptor Friedrich Volke. The further the construction progressed, the more the architect came to the conviction that the forced change had to be reversed. In tough negotiations, he obtained approval for it. In the meantime, the load-bearing walls around the plenum had already been erected - too weak for the planned stone dome, as all calculations showed. It was not until the civil engineer Hermann Zimmermann entrusted with the task in 1889 that he found a solution: He reduced the dome height from 85 to almost 75 meters and proposed a relatively light, technically demanding construction made of steel and glass. The dome, which was created in a roundabout way, provided the plenary hall with natural light and gave the parliament building the desired dignified conclusion; In addition, it was considered a symbol of the performance of German engineers.

Wilhelm II, in office as emperor since 1888, initially had a very positive attitude towards the Reichstag building. He also supported Wallot in the question of where the dome should be placed, although he found it a nuisance in principle - because he saw it as a symbol for the demands of the unloved parliament and because it was higher than the dome of the Berlin City Palace with its 67 meters . From about 1892 the emperor's increasing dislike of the building became evident; he described it as the "peak of tastelessness" and "completely unsuccessful creation" and unofficially reviled it as "Reichsaffenhaus". He developed a clear personal aversion to Wallot , presumably because he had spontaneously refused a change request. He denied the architect several awards for which he was intended. He informed his confidante Philipp zu Eulenburg by letter that he had succeeded in insulting Wallot several times in a personal conversation.

The Reichstag building (until around 1900). View from the victory column

Paul Wallot developed the building in the style of historicism that was common for government buildings at the time : For the exterior form, the architect mainly used forms of the Italian High Renaissance ( neo-renaissance ) and combined them with some elements of the German renaissance, with a bit of neo-baroque and a then highly modern steel and glass construction of the dome. The result was evidently not perceived by many contemporaries as a successful synthesis, but as an unconvincing juxtaposition and confusion. Traditionalists rejected the technical modernity of the dome; younger critics could not make friends with the massive rectangular building in the style of the Renaissance. The influential Berlin city planning officer and successful architect Ludwig Hoffmann was particularly drastic : he called the building a “first-class hearse”. In other sources, however, it is said that the majority of German architects emphatically praised the building.

The keystone was laid on December 5, 1894 . Again it was a predominantly military event. Wallot led the emperor through the building; Wilhelm II only gave words of appreciation in public. In his speech from the throne at the opening of the Reichstag, the emperor said:

"May God's blessing rest on the house, may the greatness and prosperity of the kingdom be the goal that all those called to work in its rooms strive for with self-denying loyalty!"

The construction costs amounted to 24 million marks (adjusted for purchasing power in today's currency: around 169 million euros ). They were paid out of the reparations France had to pay after the lost war of 1870/1871 .


The large meeting room of the Reichstag around 1903, with numerical identification of special places
Plenary meeting room at Leipziger Strasse 4, 1889
The meeting room of the Reichstag building around 1894, drawn by Willy Stöwer
Gable of the Reichstag, relief by Fritz Schaper and the lettering designed by Peter Behrens
Stone sculpture on the west side of the Reichstag building, allegory of the brewery, by Robert Diez

The Reichstag building was generally well prepared for its tasks. The building services were completely up to date. Its own power plant supplied the building with electricity. There was a central heating control with temperature sensors, electric fans , double windows, telephones, toilets with water flushing and the like. In addition to the meeting rooms for the Reichstag and Bundesrat , there were: a reading room, various consulting rooms, a refreshment room, cloakrooms, washrooms and changing rooms, etc. The library contained 90,000 volumes when it was set up and was designed for 320,000 volumes. The Reichstag archives soon contained millions of documents that could be sent to the reading room with an ingenious pneumatic elevator system.

A shortcoming, however, was soon to be recognized - there was a lack of sufficient working space for all MPs. Compared to other European parliament buildings, the building was relatively small with its footprint of 138 meters × 96 meters. The needs of a fictional member of parliament were described as follows: "What use was the finely carved wooden panels , the only beautiful view of Königsplatz [...] if he could not find an empty chair and a free desk for reading and writing?" in the following years could not eliminate the problem. The proportional representation of the Weimar Republic allowed the number of MPs to rise from 397 to over 600. Towards the end of the 1920s, extensions to the north of the Reichstag were planned, for which an architectural competition was held. However, the plans were no longer carried out.

A limited competition was announced for the interiors. a. Gustav Schönleber , Eugen Bracht and Franz Stuck were invited. Ornamental forms - gables with fan rosettes over the doors, obelisks , turned columns, garlands and allegorical figures - were often found in great abundance in representative Renaissance buildings, for example in the town halls of wealthy cities, and now adorned the Reichstag building in a very similar way. This elaborate design was perceived by viewers as typically German and was also intended as a counterweight and supplement to an external view that, despite other ingredients, primarily conveyed the impression of the "international neo-renaissance " that was widespread at the time . Most of the rooms, including the large conference room, were clad with wood in the traditional historical design language - with oak, ash, stained pine and tropical woods. Partly there were acoustic reasons for this; in any case, wood was cheaper than stone. But it was also essentially about questions of style; because Wallot designed the interior, including the furniture, largely in the style of the German Renaissance of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Frankfurt glass painter Alexander Linnemann , who was friends with Wallot, designed and produced numerous glass windows .

More artistic decorations

When the keystone was laid in 1894, the artistic design was not yet complete. It was primarily designed to express the unity of the empire established in 1871. The imperial coat of arms in the gable above the main entrance and the imperial crown on the top of the dome symbolized the goal achieved, as did a Germania group by Reinhold Begas above the top of the main portal. On the other hand, reference was made in many places to the fact that the German Reich was composed of several states - for example with the coats of arms of the German states (including the Hanseatic cities ) and with the personified rivers Rhine and Vistula , which can be seen on the left and right of the main portal, as well as other (no longer existing) German city coats of arms and river symbols in the windows of the west facade. In addition, there were contemporary preferred motifs such as the 16 figures on the corner towers.

  • At the northwest tower are found
    • Trade and shipping
    • Large-scale industry
    • Small and home industry
    • Electrical engineering
  • at the northeast tower
    • education
    • classes
    • art
    • literature
  • at the southeast tower
    • Defense force on land
    • Defense force at sea
    • Administration of justice
    • Statecraft
  • at the southwest tower
    • agriculture
    • Livestock
    • Viticulture
    • Brewery

They are partly related to the interior rooms (library under the north-east tower, refreshment room under the south-west tower), but also reveal references to the cardinal points (shipping and large-scale industry in north-west Germany, viticulture in the south-west, etc.). The four corner towers also stood for the four kingdoms within the empire. In order to also take into account the idea of ​​imperial unity - and to avoid regional jealousy as much as possible - the architect was careful when selecting the artists for the decoration program to involve employees from all parts of Germany.

Wallot, worn down by the constant, often irrelevant arguments, accepted a professorship in Dresden in 1899 , but was repeatedly consulted about the artistic decoration of the Reichstag until his death in 1912.

Dedication inscription

As a dedication for the building, Wallot had determined that the architrave of the west portal should receive the inscription “Dem Deutschen Volke” - which was met with a lively journalistic debate, alleged rejection by the emperor and a number of counter-proposals. That is why the designated spot remained empty for over 20 years. During the First World War , the Undersecretary of State in the Reich Chancellery, Arnold Wahnschaffe , gave the impetus to apply the inscription now in order to counteract the loss of popular support for the Kaiser. The emperor announced that he would not give express approval of the inscription; but he had no qualms if the Reichstag Decoration Commission decides to do so. A day later, the President of the Reichstag, Johannes Kaempf , announced that the inscription should now be applied.

The architect and industrial designer Peter Behrens was commissioned to design the lettering in autumn 1915. Two cannon barrels captured from the Wars of Liberation in 1813–1815 were melted down to make the 60 cm high letters. The work was carried out by the S. A. Loevy foundry . The lettering was applied between December 20 and 24, 1916.

Competitions to expand the Reichstag at the end of the 1920s

In order to explore architecturally and town- planning suitable options for expanding the office capacities for members of parliament and the Reichstag administration, the building construction department of the Prussian Ministry of Finance, headed by Martin Kießling , was commissioned to carry out architectural competitions at the end of the 1920s . This followed on from a 1912 competition for the redesign of Königsplatz , which the architect Otto March had won. The task of the competitions and the drafts submitted were passionately commented on by its editor Werner Hegemann in 1930 in the magazine Städtebau . Hegemann expressed massive criticism of the existing Reichstag building, the demolition of which he advocated because of its “scale-less”, “clumsy” and “indecent forms”, and advocated an office tower north of the Reichstag as the preferable solution. Among the 17 participants in the competition were Karl Wach from Düsseldorf, Georg Holzhauer and Franz Stamm from Munich, Hans Heinrich Grotjahn from Leipzig, Wilhelm Kreis from Dresden, Heinrich Straumer from Berlin, Paul Meißner from Dresden, German Bestelmeyer from Munich, Adolf Abel from Cologne, Gottlob Schaupp from Frankfurt am Main and Rudolf Klophaus , August Schoch and Erich zu Putlitz from Hamburg. Due to a lack of money - Germany was badly affected by the global economic crisis - none of the designs were implemented. Only the relocation of the Berlin Victory Column , suggested as part of the competitions , was realized in 1938/39.

Reichstag fire and the time of National Socialism

On January 30, 1933, the Reich President Paul von Hindenburg appointed the NSDAP leader Adolf Hitler as Reich Chancellor ; on February 1st he dissolved the Reichstag. On the night of February 28, 1933, flames broke out from the dome of the Reichstag building. The plenary hall and some of the surrounding rooms burned out. It was clearly arson; the question of guilt has not yet been clarified beyond doubt. The National Socialists benefited from the fire. That same night they proceeded with massive terror against political opponents. They caused the Reich President to sign the Reichstag Fire Ordinance for the protection of the people and the state the following day . Paragraph 1 temporarily suspended the essential fundamental rights , Paragraph 5 allowed the death penalty for the political offense " high treason ".

The constituent session of the new parliament on March 21, 1933, the " Potsdam Day ", took place after the Reichstag fire. Contrary to popular belief, Hitler never gave a speech in the Reichstag building. Hitler gave all of his Reichstag speeches in the Kroll Opera House, which has been converted into a parliament building .

In May 1933, the Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe, along with prominent members of the Communist Party, including the Bulgarian Georgi Dimitroff , was charged with arson at the Imperial Court in Leipzig . The prosecution tried to portray the fire as a signal for an armed coup. In the political show trial , van der Lubbe received the death penalty for a dubious confession and previously hastily amended legislation and was executed in January 1934. The co-defendants had to be acquitted for lack of evidence. As a propaganda event, the process was a disaster for the organizers, mainly because of Dimitrov's rhetorical superiority in his speech duels with Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Göring .

While the Reichstag, in which only National Socialist members had sat since July 1933, was meeting in the Kroll Opera House opposite, the dome of the Reichstag building was poorly repaired, but the destroyed plenary area was not. Tendentious exhibitions such as “ The Eternal Jew ” and “ Bolshevism Without a Mask” were shown in the house. At times, models of the planned “ World Capital Germania ” were also housed here, an urban planning great power fantasy that Albert Speer had designed in close contact with Hitler. The “ Hall of the People ” with its dome height of 290 meters, which was to be built directly next to the Reichstag building, would have shrunk it “to the relative size of an outside toilet” according to the judgment of a contemporary author.

The Soviet flag is hoisted on the Reichstag building (re-enactment on May 2, 1945)
Fight for the government district and the Reichstag

During the Second World War , the building with its walled-up windows served as an air raid shelter . The AEG produced there electron tubes , a field hospital was set up, and from 1943 to 1945 that was here gynecological ward of the nearby Charite housed. About 60-100 children were born in the Reichstag building.

The Red Army saw one of the key symbols of National Socialist Germany in the Reichstag building . During the Battle of Berlin , after heavy fighting that lasted from April 28 to the late evening of May 1, 1945, the 150th , 171st and 207th Infantry Divisions of the 79th Infantry Corps of the 3rd Shock Army of 1st Belorussian front and other combat units captured. Nine red Soviet flags had been flown in from Moscow . On April 30, 1945, the flag of the 150th Rifle Division was planted as the "Banner of Victory" first above the entrance portal and then at around 10:40 pm on the roof of the building. Political officers later spread that the flag had already flown over Berlin at around 2:25 p.m. At around 3 p.m. the commander of the 3rd Shock Army, General Kuznetsov, called Marshal Zhukov at the command post and reported: “Our red banner is blowing on the Reichstag!” But he also informed Zhukov: “In some places on the upper floors and in The cellars are still being fought. ”The photo on the Berlin Reichstag, May 2, 1945, by the military photographer Yevgeny Chaldej on this event, which later became a media icon , had to be reproduced shortly afterwards because of the ongoing fighting at the time; It was not until the evening of May 1st that the last defenders capitulated in the basement of the house. The photo symbolizes the end of the Second World War in Europe, at the same time the end of Hitler's Germany and thus the victory over German fascism .

Time of the division of Germany

The Reichstag after Allied bombing , 1945
Film recordings from July 1945
1982 - without a dome
Fall of the Berlin Wall at the end of 1989: The sector border ran directly on the east side of the Reichstag building
The Reichstag building on October 3, 1990

Immediately after the end of the Second World War, the last fiercely contested building of the Reichstag stood as a partial ruin in an area marked by ruins. The surrounding open spaces were used by the starving population to grow potatoes and vegetables. On November 22nd, 1954, the dome was blown up - because of alleged static uncertainty and to relieve the damaged building. This reason is referred to as "questionable" in critical texts. In the following years, the newly founded Federal Building Administration limited itself to securing the structure.

In 1955 the Bundestag decided to restore it completely. However, the type of use in divided Germany was still uncertain. In 1961, the architect Paul Baumgarten was awarded the contract for the planning and management of the reconstruction as the winner of a competition with restricted admission, which was completed in 1973. Numerous decorative elements of the facade were removed, the corner towers were reduced in height, and a new dome was dispensed with. The damaged, but largely preserved, elaborate interior design was almost completely removed. The remains disappeared behind cover panels; new mezzanine floors increased the usable area and largely changed the original spatial structure. The plenary hall was twice as large and could have received all the members of a reunified Germany. Since the Four Power Agreement of 1971, no plenary sessions of the Bundestag have been allowed to be held in Berlin. Only committee or political group meetings were possible in the newly set up rooms.

Baumgarten's interventions (the cost of which are estimated at 110 million marks ) - supported or prescribed by the Federal Building Directorate - seem all too rigorous today, but can be explained by the historical situation. He used the formal language of his time, the modern age of the 1960s. Decorative design was taboo. Straight lines and smooth surfaces dominated. In particular, the representative buildings of the late 19th century were considered bulky, overloaded and not worthy of preservation. Preservation aspects were of little importance. In addition, in the case of the Reichstag building, there was a special motif that went beyond aesthetic considerations: the house was originally, despite its parliamentary function, the symbol of a pre-democratic form of government. This was followed by weak democracy and a brutal dictatorship . The Germans had just found their way back to a still young democracy. So it seemed only logical to clearly distinguish oneself from the past with clear cuts and a strictly contemporary aesthetic.

During the division of Berlin , the Reichstag building was in the British sector. The Berlin Wall ran directly on the east side of the building. The "lonely, shot-up Reichstag" became a symbol - as a "sandstone colossus in the no man's land between the hostile world systems". A museum about the Bundestag and the history of the Reichstag building was set up in the building. A visit to the outdoor terrace with a view over the Berlin Wall was part of the usual program for foreign state guests. The exhibition “ Questions to German History ” has been shown in the building since 1971 and has been visited by several million people.

On the initiative of Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his Federal Building Minister Oscar Schneider , an expert opinion was obtained from Gottfried Böhm from RWTH Aachen University in 1985 on how the building could be used in the future - especially in the event of reunification - and what modifications would be required. The report was treated confidentially. Until 1988, Böhm designed a glass dome that was accessible to visitors and was intended to symbolize openness and democratic participation.

After German reunification on October 3, 1990, the first session of the German Bundestag in reunified Germany took place on October 4 in the Reichstag building; for the first time with the 144 MPs who were sent to the Bundestag by the freely elected People's Chamber for the period up to the first all-German election. The new Federal Ministers were sworn in at the meeting and Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl made his government statement.

Remodeling after reunification

“The seat of the German Bundestag is Berlin” - this decision was taken by the Bundestag after an intensive and controversial debate on June 20, 1991 in Bonn with a narrow majority of 18 votes. The place for the plenary sessions should be the Reichstag building. The implementation of this decision required a conversion to a modern parliament building. This lasted until 1999. The 14th German Bundestag said goodbye to the parliamentary summer recess in Bonn and met for the first time on September 8, 1999 in the new plenary hall of the Reichstag building.


The accessible glass dome of the Reichstag building

A realization competition was announced in 1993 for the renovation of the Reichstag building . The essential planning criteria were transparency, clarity and exemplary energy technology . From 80 submitted designs, three award winners were selected equally: Foster + Partners (England), Pi de Bruijn (Netherlands) and Santiago Calatrava (Spain). Norman Foster had planned a free-standing, transparent roof over the actual building and parts of the surrounding area - a suggestion that was made for aesthetic reasons (“Germany's largest gas station”), but also because of the expected costs of 1.3 billion marks (adjusted for purchasing power in today's Currency: around 974 million euros) did not find sufficient public approval. In a revision phase, he then prevailed against his two competitors with a completely new design.

In the new design, too, Foster did not include a dome for the roof of the Reichstag. In his explanations he even explicitly distanced himself from any elevation on the roof that was built “for purely symbolic reasons”; He could neither recommend a screen (similar to the original design) nor a dome. This position could not be held. In 1994/1995, pressure from political decision-makers meant that the proposals for the design of the roof had to be revised several times. On May 8, 1995, Foster's final design for a glass, accessible dome was presented, which the MPs approved. The architect Calatrava then raised the charge that this was a plagiarism of his own competition entry, which provided for a transparent dome of a similar shape. After reports and counter-reports, the opinion of most experts prevailed, according to which no special legal protection could be claimed for a traditional architectural design element such as a dome . In addition, when the competition was being held in 1992, Gottfried Böhm published his design for a dome, which he had designed in 1988 on behalf of Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl . This design already shows a glass construction with spirally ascending sidewalks for visitors and is obviously the basis for the dome, which was finally reluctantly realized by Norman Foster.

The order to Foster for the reconstruction of the parliamentary seat was connected with the strict condition that the total costs could not exceed 600 million marks, including all expenses for the dome as well as the ancillary costs and fees .

Wrapped Reichstag

The artist couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude had his project " Wrapped Reichstag " ( English Wrapped Reichstag ) propagated since 1,971th In January 1994 a final plenary debate took place in the Bonn Bundestag on whether a national symbol of the importance of the Reichstag should be the object of such an art campaign. The majority voted for it. From June 24th to July 7th, 1995, the building was completely covered with shiny silver, fireproof fabric and tied with blue, three centimeter thick ropes. The summer action quickly took on the character of a folk festival. Five million visitors were present in the two weeks. The response in the international media made the Reichstag building known worldwide.

Interior work

The completely gutted Reichstag, 1995
Graffiti by Soviet soldiers
Seating arrangement in the plenary hall
Reichstag building at night

The last event in the Reichstag building before the renovation took place on December 2, 1994. At the end of May 1995, the preparations for the construction work were completed - the asbestos removal and the uncovering of the original building structures. Numerous original components were salvaged and later incorporated into the finished building. Respect for the historical building fabric was one of the demands placed on the architects. Traces of history should remain visible even after the renovation. This also includes graffiti by Soviet soldiers in Cyrillic script from the May days of 1945, which were affixed after the conquest of Berlin (“Hitler kaputt”, “ Caucasus- Berlin ”). Texts with racist or sexist statements were removed in consultation with Russian diplomats , the rest are shown in the converted Reichstag.

At the end of July 1995 - immediately after the “ Wrapped Reichstag ” - the actual renovation work began. First of all, Baumgarten's conversions and installations from the 1960s were removed; 45,000 tons of rubble had to be removed. In order to guarantee the stability of the modified building, 90 new piles were added to the 2,300 support piles that Paul Wallot once had sunk underground.

The shell construction started in June 1996. In the center of the building, a new building was built in the old building. It mainly comprises the plenary hall, which extends over all three main floors. It is 1200 m² in size (640 m² for Wallot, 1375 m² for Baumgarten) and has been changed so that the Presidium is now back on the east side as it was in the early days of the building. The plenary hall is also illuminated by a system of mirrors that diverts daylight from the dome into the hall. Visitors can reach the grandstands in the plenum via a specially built-in mezzanine. On the second floor there are office and reception rooms for the President of the Bundestag and the meeting room for the Council of Elders ; The offices of the MPs and parliamentary groups as well as the central press lobby are located on the third floor. A roof terrace with a restaurant for the MPs is also open to the public after a security check. House technology, kitchen and cloakroom are on the ground floor and in the basement.

The north and south wings, about two-thirds of the building, remained as a historical structure and were merely renovated.

In the new building, contemporary materials such as exposed concrete , glass and steel were used, in the old building mainly limestone and sandstone in light, warm colors. A newly developed color concept should contribute to the clarity in the building. A total of nine colors, some of which are very strong, mark different areas. The rooms were given strong colored wooden panels all around - which was sometimes perceived as problematic with regard to the works of art shown there.


The Reichstag building with a dome

The subsequently designed dome has developed into a much-visited attraction and a symbol of Berlin. Registered visitors can enter the building through the west portal. After a security check, two elevators take you to the 24-meter-high accessible roof (the small restaurant “ Käfer ” is located in the rear area of ​​the roof terrace ). The dome placed there measures 38 meters in diameter and is 23.5 meters high. Its steel skeleton consists of 24 vertical ribs at a distance of 15 degrees and 17 horizontal rings with a distance of 1.65 meters and a mass of around 800 tons, clad with 3000 m² of glass with a mass of around 240 tons. On the inside, two spiral ramps, each around 1.8 meters wide and offset by 180 degrees, each 230 meters long, wind up to a viewing platform - 40 meters above ground level - or down again on the opposite side to the roof terrace. The top of the dome is 47 meters above the ground - significantly lower than that of Paul Wallot. Until November 2010, as long as the dome was freely accessible, an average of 8,000 visitors were counted daily. The number fell sharply when access was restricted for security reasons, but is still over a million visitors a year.

By June 2006, a total of more than 18 million people had visited the Reichstag building to climb the dome, follow debates or be guided through the building.

Due to terror warnings (the Berliner Morgenpost spoke of a “danger of Islamist attacks”), the dome was closed to visitors from November 22nd to December 4th, 2010. It was then reopened for individuals and groups, but only after prior registration. Since July 2012, it has been possible to register on site with a lead time of two hours.

Integrated energy concept

When the Reichstag building was rebuilt in the 1990s, a building was created that should be exemplary in its consideration of ecological factors for planners and engineers. The heating and energy system consists of a combination of solar technology and mechanical ventilation, the use of the subsoil as seasonal cold and heat storage ( geothermal energy ), combined heat and power technology , combined heat and power and the utilization of renewable raw materials .

Special glazing and insulation reduce heat loss. A solar power system of more than 300 m² on the roof of the Reichstag building and two combined heat and power plants, which are operated with bio- diesel fuel from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania , together can supply 82 percent of the electricity required by the Reichstag and the surrounding parliament building. In summer, absorption chillers use part of the waste heat from the engines to cool the buildings. Another part is used to heat salty water, which is pumped up from a reservoir around 300 meters below the building, to around 70 ° C. Then it is directed back underground and stored there; in winter it is available to heat the buildings. Another source of water at a depth of 60 meters can store the winter cold and, in particularly high summer temperatures, contribute to the air conditioning of the structures. These and a few other factors reduce the annual CO 2 emissions of the Reichstag building from around 7,000 to 400 to 1,000 tons. With a net floor area of ​​40,047 m², the energy requirement is 270.9 kWh / (m² · a), which is well below the EnEV requirement value for modernized old buildings and even for new buildings.

The dome, which is primarily perceived as a striking architectural element, is also included in the energy concept. It also serves to light and ventilate the plenary hall below. Daylight is directed into the hall through 360 mirrors arranged in a funnel shape. In order to ensure glare-free light and to prevent excessive heating in strong sunlight, some of the mirrors can be covered by a movable, computer-controlled screen that is effective depending on the position of the sun. Inside the mirror funnel, used air is directed to the highest point of the building via an exhaust air nozzle and escapes through a circular opening in the center of the dome; On this way it passes a heat recovery system that can extract usable residual energy. A device directly under the dome opening catches rainwater. Wallot had ventilation shafts installed to supply the Reichstag with fresh air. These shafts have now been exposed again and made usable.


On April 19, 1999, the symbolic handover of the keys to the President of the German Bundestag and a first plenary session took place. The renovation was completed on schedule and on budget after around four years of construction. The actual move of the Bundestag took place during the summer break; With the session on September 8th, parliament began regular work in the Reichstag building.

Planning a visitor center

Due to security measures, there have been containers southwest of the Reichstag building since 2011 , through which registered visitors of the Bundestag can get guided tours. In the course of 2012, the federal government and state of Berlin examined whether it would make sense to build an underground visitor center based on the model of the visitor center of the US Parliament in Washington . However, at the end of 2015, the building and space commission of the Bundestag's council of elders decided to plan a “Visitor and Information Center” (BIZ) on Scheidemannstrasse opposite the Reichstag building. From this central contact point, visitors should be able to enter the Reichstag through a tunnel. To this end, an architectural competition was announced, which was won by a Swiss architects' office in January 2017. Despite the planned completion in 2023, no date has been set for the start of construction, which is why Bundestag Vice President Wolfgang Kubicki declared in July 2018 that he wanted to advance the project. Although Kubicki criticized the planned 6,600 m² building in September 2018 with reference to the ten times larger visitor center of the Capitol in Washington as too small, one would like to u. a. Stick to the Swiss winning design for cost reasons.

As of August 2019, the website of the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning gives an upper cost limit of 150 million euros, but still does not indicate the start of construction for the project. According to a decision by the building and spatial commission on July 6, 2018, a 2.5 m deep and up to 10 m wide Aha! Is to be installed across the Republic Square in front of the west portal . -Ditch and erect a safety fence on the sides of the ramp. The project is to be submitted to the Bundestag and the Ministry of Finance for approval by the end of 2019 .

Art in the Reichstag

Reichstag memorial : Remembrance of 96 members of the Reichstag murdered by the Nazi regime

The Reichstag building is the most important complex in the overall concept for the artistic design of the buildings of the German Bundestag in Berlin's Spreebogen . The Art Council of the Parliament decided on proposals that had been worked out by external experts. A work related to the building was already in place and should be taken over after the renovation. 18 other artists were invited to create new works for the Reichstag, among them, in view of the former four-power status of Berlin, artists from England (Norman Foster as architect), France (Christian Boltanski), Russia ( Grisha Bruskin ) and the USA ( Jenny Holzer ). Just like the German artists of international standing, they were asked to comment on the history-laden place with their works. Together with a number of purchases and loans, this resulted in an important collection of contemporary art in the Reichstag. A total of almost 30 artists are represented with their work.

Only a few works can be briefly mentioned here:

  • As early as 1992, Katharina Sieverding designed a memorial for those MPs who were persecuted and murdered by the National Socialists. Your room installation in the parliamentary lobby shows a large-format, five-part photo painting on the themes of destruction and rebirth, as well as three memorial books arranged on wooden tables.
  • In the western entrance hall, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter were faced with the task of placing their work on 30 meter high walls. With back-painted glass panels with a total height of 21 meters in the colors black, red and yellow, Richter developed an ambiguous variation on the German state colors. Polke had five light boxes attached with playful picture collages from politics and history.
  • Jenny Holzer installed a stele in the northern entrance hall on which vertical neon strips run. They reproduce speeches and heckling by members of parliament from the period between 1871 and 1992, which should be continuously updated at the artist's request.
  • Large canvases by Georg Baselitz have been installed in the southern entrance hall , as well as paintings with motifs based on Caspar David Friedrich . As was customary with him since the late 1960s, Baselitz turned these motifs upside down in order to reinforce the importance of the formal elements.
  • Bernhard Heisig provided the painting Time and Life . With echoes of German Expressionism , an abundance of individual images provides an overview of significant motifs in German history.
  • The table with the aggregate was set up by Joseph Beuys as a permanent loan : a table cast from bronze with a box on it, in front of it two balls on the floor, connecting cables between the top and bottom. A reflection on the flow of natural and technical energies.
  • Hans Haacke designed an installation for the northern courtyard. A narrow, rectangular wooden trough was supposed to be filled by the MPs with soil from their constituencies (which was very hesitant). An inscription in illuminated letters remained visible: “ The population ”. Any spontaneous plant growth should be left to its own devices.

The art program was already highly controversial during the selection phase . Heisig's participation, for example, provoked energetic protests on the accusation that as a once “close to the state” painter in the GDR he was not called to perform representative artistic work in the parliament building of a democracy. The debate about Haacke's draft was even more heated. With his neon sign he had varied the central inscription in the west gable ("Dem Deutschen Volke") and thus triggered the suspicion that he wanted to distance himself from their statement. The artist himself let it be known that although he did consider the concept of the people to be burdened by recent German history, he saw his work as only food for thought, not a fundamentally negative judgment. After three meetings of the art council and a plenary debate, this work was also accepted.

The total expenditure for works of art in the Reichstag building was eight million marks, which corresponded to the legally prescribed quota for art projects in public buildings. The purchase prices of the individual works of art were not published.

The parliamentary controversies are reminiscent of a dispute in 1899. While the painterly design of the Reichstag had previously been carried out mainly by history and decorative painters without any noteworthy artistic pretensions, the Munich painter Franz von Stuck was commissioned by Wallot to create paintings for the foyer of the President of the Reichstag. He presented two narrow pictures, each 22 meters long, which were to be mounted below the ceiling. The approval of colleagues and art experts was unanimous, as was the rejection by the MPs. The pictures were not attached.

In front of the south-west corner of the building there has been a memorial for the 96 members of the Reichstag who were murdered by the National Socialists since 1992 .

useful information

Proclamation of the Republic

Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the republic on November 9, 1918

On the afternoon of November 9, 1918, the SPD parliamentary group leader Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the " German Republic " from the second west-facing balcony to the left of the main portal . A memorial plaque is attached to this place today. Scheidemann's speech has come down to us in different versions. In 1928 he quoted himself in his memoirs:

“Workers and soldiers! The four years of the war were terrible. The sacrifices that the people had to make to property and blood were horrific. The unfortunate war is over. The killing is over. The consequences of war, hardship and misery will weigh on us for many years to come. Be united, faithful and conscientious! The old and rotten, the monarchy, has collapsed. Long live the new! Long live the German Republic! "

A few hours later, Karl Liebknecht proclaimed the “Free Socialist Republic” ( Soviet Republic ) from the Berlin City Palace .

Bloodbath in front of the Reichstag

An attempt by the USPD and the KPD to mobilize the suffering masses of Berlin workers for a new attempt to establish council rule ended on January 13, 1920 in the bloodbath at the Reichstag building .

Underground passage

During the renovation work after reunification, a corridor with heating pipes was discovered. It once connected the Reichstag building with the Reichstag Presidential Palace , which is now the seat of the German Parliamentary Society . Part of the heating corridor was cut out during the renovation work and is now an isolated object in the pedestrian underpass from the Reichstag to the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus .

Federal eagle

Back of the federal eagle, designed by Norman Foster

In numerous drafts, Norman Foster proposed new solutions for the design of the federal eagle in the plenary chamber, which he wanted, above all, to be slimmer. However, the MPs opted for an enlarged copy of the rounded shape that the sculptor Ludwig Gies once designed for the Bonn parliament ( ironic name: "Fat Henne"). But Foster took on the design of the back of the eagle, which hangs in front of a glass wall in Berlin and can therefore be seen from both sides, unlike in Bonn. The new eagle, signed by Foster on the back, is 58 m², around a third larger than the old one and weighs 2.5 tons.

Flagging the towers

Three towers of the Reichstag building are each flagged with the national flag and one tower with the European flag. The flags measure five by seven meters, are constantly raised and are illuminated at night.

Flag of unity

On the night of October 2 to 3, 1990 at midnight, on the occasion of German reunification, the "Unity Flag" was hoisted on the Platz der Republik. It still flies day and night (at night it is illuminated) and measures six by ten meters .

Prayer room

On the first floor there is a prayer room that serves as a place of reflection for the delegates.

The Reichstag building as a tourist attraction

See also


  • Götz Adriani u. a. (Ed.): Art in the Reichstag building. DuMont, Cologne 2002, ISBN 3-7701-5517-3 .
  • Michael S. Cullen: The Reichstag. In the field of tension in German history. 2., completely revised Ed., Be.bra, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-89809-058-2 .
  • Michael S. Cullen : The Reichstag - a symbol of German history. be.bra verlag, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-89809-114-5 .
  • Hagen Eying, Alexander Kluy, Gina Siegel (editor): Democracy as a client. Federal buildings in Berlin from 1991 to 2000 . Ed .: Federal Ministry for Transport, Building and Housing. 1st edition. Junius Verlag, Hamburg 2000, ISBN 3-88506-290-9 , p. 52-69 .
  • Norman Foster , David Jenkins (ed.): The new Reichstag. German adaptation by Jochen Gaile. Brockhaus, Leipzig / Mannheim 2000, ISBN 3-7653-2061-7 .
  • Stephanie Grüger: The Reichstag as a symbol. Investigation of its meanings from 1990 to 1999. WiKu, Stuttgart / Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-936749-48-5 .
  • Godehard Hoffmann: Architecture for the Nation? The Reichstag and the state buildings of the German Empire 1871–1918. DuMont, Cologne 2000, ISBN 3-7701-4834-7 .
  • Carl-Christian Kaiser: The Reichstag building. In: German Bundestag, Public Relations Department (Ed.): Insights. A tour of the parliamentary district. German Bundestag, Berlin 2005, DNB 1024541800 , OBV , pp. 4–45.
  • Oscar Schneider: Fight for the dome. Architecture in a democracy. Bouvier, Bonn 2006, ISBN 3-416-03076-1 .
  • Bernhard Schulz: The Reichstag. The architecture by Norman Foster. Preface by Wolfgang Thierse , introduction by Norman Foster. Prestel, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-7913-2184-6 (German), ISBN 3-7913-2153-6 (English).
  • Paul Wallot : The Reichstag building in Berlin. Komet, Cologne, reprint of the original edition Leipzig 1897, ISBN 978-3-89836-930-5 .
  • German Bundestag, leaflet: The Reichstag building (front), The German Bundestag (back). Public relations department of the German Bundestag (ed.). Berlin 2010.
  • German Bundestag, Public Relations Department (Ed.): Insights. A tour of the parliamentary district . DruckVerlag Kettler, Berlin 2000, p. 4-45 .
  • The award-winning designs for the new Reichstag building. Reichsdruckerei , Berlin 1882. Digitized by: Central and State Library Berlin, 2016, urn : nbn: de: kobv: 109-1-12487839 .

Web links

Commons : Reichstag (building)  - Collection of images
Wikivoyage: Reichstag  - travel guide
Wiktionary: Reichstag building  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Plenary area of ​​the Reichstag building. In: Hamburger Abendblatt. March 19, 1999, accessed October 18, 2019 .
  2. Andreas Biefang : The other side of power. Reichstag and public in the "Bismarck System" 1871–1890. Berlin 2009, pp. 139, 298.
  3. ^ Heinrich Freiherr von Ferstel:  Competition draft for the construction of a Reichstag building in Berlin with the motto "Bramante". [...] For this a board. In:  Der Bautechniker , year 1882, No. 51, December 22, 1882, (II. Year), p. 479 ff. (Online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / maintenance / construction
  4. ^ A. Köstlin: The Viennese architect Heinrich Freih. v. Ferstel, k. k. Oberbauraths and Professors, draft for the Reichstag building in Berlin. In: Allgemeine Bauzeitung 1883 ( text as well as facade and floor plans online).
  5. ^ Drafts for the German Reichstag building . In: Centralblatt der Bauverwaltung . July 1, 1882, p. 229 ff. (Printing error: instead of “June” “July” was printed), accessed on December 11, 2012.
  6. ^ Stenographic reports on the negotiations of the Reichstag, 5th legislative period, 2nd session 1882/83. 4th volume. Berlin 1883. 100th session, June 9, 1883, pp. 2937-2949.
  7. ^ The plastic jewelry on the new station building. In: Vaterstädtische Blätter , year 1908, No. 28, edition of July 12, 1908, p. 117.
  8. ^ Hans-Peter Andrä, Markus Maier: Conversion of the Reichstag building to the seat of the German Bundestag in Berlin (PDF).
  9. Competition to expand the Reichstag building. 1928, Zentralblatt der Bauverwaltung (digitized version).
  11. ^ Ansgar Klein: Art, Symbolism and Politics: The wrapping of the Reichstag as food for thought. P. 240.
  12. On the “ heraldic trees ” at the west entrance, see The sculptures and reliefs of the Reichstag (PDF; 214.03 kB), August 18, 2014.
  13. ↑ The scene of German history - The Reichstag building in Berlin
    Handbook of the Reichstag. 1st electoral term 1920, p. 384f.
  14. Jan Eisel, Scientific Service : The sculptures and reliefs of the Reichstag. In: . August 18, 2014;
    Heiko Bollmeyer: The rocky road to democracy. The Weimar National Assembly between the Empire and the Republic. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-593-38445-0 , p. 56 ;
    Georg Buss: The house of the German Reichstag. In: Kunstgewerbeblatt. N. F. Vol. 6, 1895, pp. 73-96 (part 1), pp. 105-125 (part 2), here p. 80 (digitized version of Heidelberg University Library).
  15. Cullen, p. 44.
  16. ^ Werner Hegemann : Tower house on the Reichstag ?! (PDF; 5 MB; accessed on March 10, 2014). In: Werner Hegemann (Hrsg.), Günther Wasmuth (Hrsg.): Der Städtebau. Volume 25 (1930), ZDB ID 217568-x . (Supplement to Wasmuth's monthly magazine for architecture. Volume XIV.1930, issue 2). Verlag Ernst Wasmuth AG, Berlin 1930, pp. 97-104.
  17. In the appraisal of the Reichstag building, Hegemann quoted the architect Ludwig Hoffmann in his article , who had described the parliament building as a "first class hearse". The two competitions, which he dealt with in the following article, “made it clear that Wallot's Reichstag building is no longer bearable today.” However, Hegemann considered an immediate demolition to be “premature”, because: “The self-education of every artistically adult German still requires some self-mortification. "
  18. Excerpts from Wolfgang Thierse's speech at the opening of the new Reichstag building ( Memento from June 6, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (copy in the Internet Archive).
  19. The Reichstag babies . In: Der Spiegel , 2019
  20. "at around 3 p.m." and the following quotations from Georgi K. Schukow: Memories and Thoughts. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1969, pp. 602-603.
  21. The flag on the Reichstag. ( Memento from February 10, 2013 in the web archive ) Announcement of the publisher's book Das Banner des Sieges .
  22. Data Handbook of the German Bundestag, Volume III, Section 21.5 Reconstruction and Use of the Reichstag Building in Berlin until 1990. pp. 3341–3350.
  23. ^ Eduard Beaucamp : Breakout from the ivory tower. Plea for a new commissioned art. In: Otto Depenheuer (ed.): State and beauty. Possibilities and perspectives of a state calokagathy. Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2005, ISBN 3-531-14768-4 , pp. 119–129, here: p. 126 .
  24. ^ Α-Forum - Oscar Schneider Federal Minister of Construction a. D. in conversation with Thomas Rex. (PDF; 43 kB) In: Bayerischer Rundfunk, July 4, 2007, accessed on May 1, 2018 .
  25. ^ Stenographic report, 228th session, 11th electoral term. (PDF) German Bundestag, October 4, 1990.
  26. Plenary Protocol 14/52, of September 8, 1999. (PDF) German Bundestag.
  27. Interior of the Reichstag. Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), accessed on September 25, 2017.
  28. ^ German Bundestag: politicians, journalists and visitors in one house. In:, accessed on May 1, 2018.
  29. According to the Federal Building Administration /
  30. Standard estimate with 80 kg / m².
  31. Roland Fink, Klaus Horstkötter, Sven Zschippang: The new dome on the Reichstag building, structural design and construction. In: Stahlbau 68th year 1999, pp. 563-575.
  32. a b Berlin: Reichstag dome can be visited again spontaneously. At: Spiegel Online . June 22, 2012.
  33. 20.1 Visitor numbers. (PDF) In: German Bundestag , April 7, 2017, accessed on October 19, 2017 .
  34. Energy pass for the Reichstag building
  35. ^ Stenographic report 33rd session of the 14th electoral term. (PDF) German Bundestag, April 19, 1999.
  36. ^ Stenographic report, 52nd session of the 14th electoral term. (PDF) German Bundestag, September 8, 1999.
  37. ^ Black building at the Reichstag. In: Der Tagesspiegel , February 25, 2018.
  38. ^ Berlin Reichstag: Federal government is considering building an underground visitor center. In: Spiegel Online , January 16, 2012, accessed May 25, 2016.
  39. Via tunnel to the dome: Architectural competition for a new visitor center in front of the Reichstag has started. In: Berliner Woche , December 11, 2015. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  40. Final decision in the Bundestag visitor center competition . In: , January 12, 2017. Accessed July 29, 2018.
  41. Bundestag Vice President wants to advance the visitor center . In: , July 8, 2018. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
  42. Bigger, more beautiful, more expensive . In: , September 10, 2018. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  43. Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning (BBR) - Visitor and Information Center of the German Bundestag (BIZ). At: , accessed on April 10, 2019.
  44. Parliament discusses Does a trench protect the Reichstag from terrorist attacks? In: Berliner Zeitung , July 18, 2019.
  45. A ditch in front of the Reichstag. In: Der Tagesspiegel , July 18, 2019.
  46. A ditch for the Reichstag. In: Spiegel Online , July 18, 2019.
  47. Flagging at the German Bundestag Website of the German Bundestag
  48. Ariane Bemmer: 60 m² Germany. In: Der Tagesspiegel . October 3, 2010.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on June 30, 2007 in this version .