Visit The Reichstag Cupola At Night

The Illuminated Summit Of Germany Reimagined

The sun sets on the Reichstag like any other building. Except inside, an enormous tower of mirrors reflects the fading light across patented Bundestag-blue plenary seating. A monument truly with transparency and reflection at its heart. No other building stands to represent the troubled evolution of the German nation. Completed in 1894, twenty three years after the formation of the German Empire in 1871, the Reichstag building was designed by Paul Wallot, a relatively unheard of architect at that time from Frankfurt, the winning design chosen from the second competition held (only for German architects) after the first produced a winner but no possibility of the project being realised. The present location of the building was then occupied by a palace, owned by a family entirely reluctant to part with their established position - until given a prominent place of resettlement.


It’s location, outside the historic confines of Berlin’s central Mitte district, does much to illustrate its controversial coming into being - as democracy arrived late to the late born country - and the proportions of the structure meant that it would be unlikely for space to be found for it East of the Brandenburg Gate. Thus eventually located 200 yards from the old city entrance on the eastern side of, what was then, Königplatz.

The initial concept was to have a structure much further West, dismissed by parliamentarians for its unacceptable distance from the historic heart of the city.

Add to that the political climate of the Wilhelminian era - where one monarch had succeeded two in one tragic year and the younger Wilhelm sought to out-command the prestige of his grandfather - which made the centralisation of the building entirely undesirable. So it found its place outside the city gates, among the greenery of the former royal hunting ground.


The balancing act between traditional aristocracy and modern representative parliamentary democracy would leave more than the building at the centre of the German state.

Redesigned by the British architect Lord Norman Foster, it was re-opened as the German parliament in September 1999. Foster had won the international competition held to find a design for the resurrected structure in 1992.  

The building the Norman Foster is famous for in London, the Gherkin, is official called 30 St Mary Axe and stands on the site of the old Baltic Exchange. The Baltic Exchange was extensively damaged by an IRA bomb in 1992 and torn down. Replaced by the Gherkin in 2003, opened in 2004.

When confronted with the issue of moving back to Berlin in the 1990s the government had to balance Berlin's size with the fact that Bonn was located in the country's most populous state, North Rhine Westphalia. Bonn represented the West, Berlin the East, Bonn the future, Berlin the past. The result of the Bundestag's vote on June 20th 1991 remained in doubt until the last minute. Berlin won by 338 to 320.


The surrounding buildings in the Regierungsviertel are named after famous German politicians; Jakob Kaiser was one of the founders of the CDU. Marie Elizabeth Luders was one of the first female members of parliament. Paul Lobe was president of the Reichstag for most of the Weimar Republic and the oldest member of parliament in 1949 when the parliament convened in Bonn.

The government quarter in Berlin, Regierungsviertel, was designed by German architect Axel Schultes and Charlotte Frank. It consists of the five main government buildings, the Reichstag, the Chancellory, the Marie-Elizabeth-Luders-Haus, the Paul-Löbe-Haus and the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus with two avenues of around 600 Oak trees planted at intervals of 10 metres. The trees spent 20 years in nurseries before being planted between 1999 and 2001 as the quarter was established.

The conceptual artist Christo, grew up in Dimitrov's Bulgaria, wrapped the Reichstag in fabric in 1995. At once a recognisable outline but also a ghostly apparition.

Address: Platz der Republik 1, 11011 Berlin
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Did you know:The Reichstag was designed by architect Paul Wallot to resemble Memorial Hall in Philadelphia?

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