Parliament Buildings, Berlin
There’s no point in trying to explain the set up of German politics any more than it is anywhere else. Politicians world-wide have it all sewn up, but it’s useful to understand the layout of the new government quarter since a unified Germany has brought it back to Berlin.
The Reichstag (parliament) holds centre stage and I have written a separate review on that, but nearby a whole new set of buildings have thrust the area into the 21st century. Every cloud has a silver lining as they say, and the damage inflicted on Berlin in WW2 has given the city a blank canvas to work with in many cases - and here is a prime example.
From a layman’s point of view I think there are three new modern buildings that have the most impact on the visitor - The Chancellery, the Paul Lobe Building, and the Marie-Elisabeth-Luders Haus.
The Chancellery Building isn’t to everyone’s taste, which is a shame really, because it just happens to be the largest government headquarters building in the world. I happen to like modern architecture, but situated as it is across the way from The Reichstag, I can’t see a flag being hoisted aloft here if Germany should ever lose control of its destiny again.
The Paul Lobe Building is a place where a lot of the day to day office work gets done, which doesn’t sound particularly exciting, and probably isn’t, but I like the design of how a bridge has been built across the Spree to meet the Marie-Elisabeth-Luders Haus, symbolising the unification of east and west. This building serves as a parliamentary library, scientific resource, and other academic services - whatever that means.
All of these buildings, which are collectively known as ‘Federal Row’ have their own appeal, or otherwise, and when the dust has settled and it’s all become a bit mellower visitors may well find this another part of Berlin to put on their itinerary - or maybe not - only time will tell.
To complement the German Parliament in the grand old Reichstag, are the Parliament buildings housed in a very modern Paul-Loebe House next door. With sleek mathematical lines, huge glass frontage, and stacked office blocks reaching back to, and across, the Spee river, it's a very impressive piece of modern architecture. It's used to house the government ministers and their support staff when they are not meeting up in the Reichstag next door.
Part of the boat trip took us past the German Parliament building - The Bundestag (Federal Chancellory) - affectionately known to those nickname-loving-inhabitants-of-Berlin as "The Washing Machine". The official names of the Bundestag buildings are The Paul-Loebe Haus and The Marie-Elisabeth Lueders Haus.
On September 6, 1991, the decision was made: Berlin became the capital city of the reunified country. Since that time huge enterprise of moving all governmental and parliamentary institutions from Bonn to Berlin started.
An architectural competition was announced, to determine who should design the government buildings. The winners were the Berlin architects: Axel Schulte and Charlotte Frank.
Unfortunately the federal buildings were not open to the public when I was there probably for the security reasons. I was only told about guided tours to the Chancellor's Office building (book in advance). At least I was walking around the complex (Spreeside government quarter) which consisted of a few parts/buildings located at one area close to Branderburg Gate including:
1. The Reichstag - house of German Parliament (Deutcher Bundestag) since April 1999;
2. The Chancellor's Office building, with the Chancellor's garden and park (Bundeskanzleramt and Kanzlergarten) - seat of German Chancellor,
3. Paul-Löbe House which houses departments supported functions for parliamentary work in the nearby Reichstag,
4. Jakob-Kaiser House - the largest of the Bundestag’s new parliamentary buildings where members of the presidium of the Bundestag, its administrators, and representatives of the parties are accommodated,
5. Marie-Elisab Lüders House - the scientific service and infrastructure centre of the Parliament,
7. The official residence of the president of the Reichstag,
8. The Federal Government's Press and Information Office - a complex that combines restored historic edifices with an impressive new building.
This modern building on my picture was opened in December 2003. It was called Marie-Elisabeth Lüders House and in real it wasn't completed inside (in February 2004). The construction started in April 1997 and probably it will be finally finished by December 2004.
The building serves as the scientific service- and infrastructure centre of the Parliament. In addition it accommodates parliamentary car pool, a post office and a sports area.
The building looked somewhat sad and... non-human in February especially that the wide cement walkways around were empty. The building was connected by glass passages/bridges over the Spree River with Jakob-Kaiser House and Paul-Löbe House.
Marie-Elisabeth Lüders House will house the entire the parliamentary scientific library and German National Library - world's third largest library - soon. A well-equipped user area with information services and reading rooms will be located in the "rotunda". The library was still under construction in February 2004 and will probably be completed by the end of 2004. In addition, there will be a small reading room in the Jakob Kaiser Building.
I saw the building exclusively from the oposite, southern bank of Spree River. But the library will be open to the public hopefully soon. It's told that it will be the world's most modern library.
Germany has the most powerful economy in Europe but it does not mean that they don't have economic problems esp. too large budget deficit. It caused they had to start lower budget expenses recently and that's why many Germans - as I noticed - were against building very expensive government and parliament buildings in Berlin. Additionaly new security demands due to terrorism added new costs to the project.
Personally I think that the people who decide about milions of others should have the best possible work area and enviroinment. It seems that Germans already have :-).
I was told that the construction went slower and slower. In fact, Marie-Elisabeth Lüders House should be completed in the middle of 2003 and now, maybe it would be by the end of 2004.
From my friend Ingo (german_eagle) from Dresden, Germany:
The move of the government from Bonn to Berlin caused costs of about 18 milliards (billions in the US) Euro.
Thank you Ingo. It's 18,000,000,000 € !!! I even can't imagine that money. Can you ?
The longitudinal building located north of Reichstag on southern bank of Spree River is called Paul-Löbe House. The main function of the building is to house departments with support functions for parliamentary work in the nearby Reichstag. There are rooms for parliamentary representatives, meeting rooms for parliamentary committees and rooms for the committee staffs. Simply it houses offices of German Parliament and consists of eight identical blocks, each with a planted courtyard. There were the rotundas seen from the outside, in each of which were two double-storeyed meeting rooms for committee meetings.
It was the largest house of beaurocracy I ever saw.
There were constructions which remained me ice cubes put on planted courtyards of Paul-Löbe Haus which added some human feelings to the building. You can see it walking along Paul-Löbe Allee.
By the way, Paul Löbe was the president of the Reichstag from 1924 to 1932.
Berlin became the capital city of Prussia in 1710 under the reign of Freidrich I but it wasn't until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 that Berlin became the government centre for what was known as the Reichstag (parliament), In 1871 the Northern German states were united to form the German Empire and a home for the Reichstag was decided upon to be located on the banks of the Spree.
The Reichstag building was completed in 1894 and served as the parliament's home until damaged by fire in 1933 - a fact that was blamed on the Communists but coincidentally allowed the then Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, to dissolve the elected governement and to introduce a sham parliament consisting of appointed representatives of his own chosing.
The building was further damaged towards the end of World War II and following the division of the city the Soviet-led East German regime made it's parliamentary home at the People's Palace whilst the Western authorities decided to relocate their capital to Bonn. The Reichstag building was situated in western Berlin and was partially restored to allow the Bonn-based parliament to assemble there once a year as a token of anticipation that Berlin would once again become the country's capital.
Following the collapse of Communism and the re-unification of Germany the decision to relocate the capital was soon made (although by quite a small majority). The British architect Norman Foster was commissioned to redesign the Reichstag building which was completed in 1999 and the new parliament (now known as the Bundestag) moved in.
The modern reincarnation features a huge glass dome overlooking the plenary hall which has become a tourist attraction in it own right. The dome offers panoramic views over the city, houses exhibitions and there are guided tours about the workings of the federal government which makes this the most visited parliamentary building in the world. The dome is open to the public from 8 am until midnight (last entry 10 pm) and because there are no reservations there can be long queues during the peak tourist season.
The area has become known as the Parliament Quarter and as well as the Reichstag building there are several other striking examples of modern architecture which house the various government departments including the Parliamentary Library and the Bundestag Art Gallery.
The Federal Chancellery stands at the western end of the "Bundesband", the strip of federal buildings that stretches across the bend in the River Spree to form a symbolic link between East and West. Following the transfer of the government from Bonn to Berlin the Federal Chancellery was temporarily accommodated in the former GDR Council of State building. The Chancellor took up official residence in the new building on 30 April 2001. Roughly comparable in function to the American White House, it is the second most important government building in the reunited capital city. Only the Reichstag - recently refurbished by Foster and Partners for the German parliament--can claim symbolic precedence.
The German parliament (Bundestag)plays an important role in the political system of the Federal Republic Of Germany. It's members are elected by the people of Germany. The Federal Chancellor, who leads the nation is elected by members of Bundestag.
The Reichstag Building is a marvellous piece of architecture. It's interiors are equipped with state-of-the-art technology. The building was restored by the famous British architect Sir Norman Foster. He has ensured that the historic shell of the building is preserved while creating the modern interior.
You may have to wait in the "Q" for long time to get entry into Reichstag. But don't miss the chance to see this historical monument.
The building is open to visitors from 8 AM onwards till midnight. Free English and French audio guides are available.
Whilst visiting the Reichstag, it's worth having a look at the other buildings that make up the Regierungsviertel (Government District). In contrast to the Reichstag, they are all modern and built using interesting shapes, pale coloured stone and a lot of reflective glass.
Across the green in front of the Reichstag, you'll see the Bundeskanzleramt (Federal Chancellery) where the Chancellor receives state guests. Opposite that (and next to the Reichstag) is a series of buildings that house the administration offices and meeting rooms of the Bundestag (note the fleet of black Mercedes cars always outside).
The entire complex is connected by tunnels and bridges, with the river running through the middle. The riverside path makes a nice walk.
I had a walk along Spree river from Pergamon museum towards the Reichstag and the Hauptbahnhof. It was a beautiful experience, although I did it on a cold day. The buildings I saw on the river sides and the city perpectives I had, made me think that Berlin is already a pioneer in city architecture and that this will be more obvious and intense in the decade to come.
Great example the building on the photo. It is the "Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus", architect Stephan Braunfels, Munich, it belongs to the "band des bundes" parliament buildings, located on the east side of Spree and Reichstag building, it was completed in 2003 and it houses the library and archive services of the parliament.
Small tip: Locals call this building "washing machine", for the obvious reasons!
The offices of our head of state - chancellor Gerhard Schröder - and 470 others. The Bundeskanzleramt was officially opened in 2001.
I dont really like its architecture from the outside but from the pictures I saw the building and attached garden is beautiful inside. The people of Berlin who give funny names to everything call it "Washing Machine".