More on Architecture and Democracy

In a recent post marking the passing of the renowned architect Romaldo Giurgola, we learned that architecture and democracy were linked in his design of the Parliament House of Australia.

As a follow up, it is interesting note these connections in another well known parliament house, Germany’s Reichstag.

In this case, the architect Norman Foster, was not building a completely new structure but redesigning a devastated and historically significant and controversial building.

As Foster has noted, the transformation of the Reichstag is rooted in four related issues:

  1. the Bundestag’s significance as a democratic forum
  2. an understanding of history
  3. a commitment to accessibility, and
  4. a vigorous environmental agenda

The first point is a clear connection to Giurgola’s sensitivity to the role of the building he was designing, and in the case of the Reichstag, this element is symbolised by the transparency of the glass dome which opens from the roof down into the interior of the Bundestag (the debating chamber of parliament). In the wake of two world wars, this dimension has special significance for Germans.

The latter links to the second point where the new Reichstag embodies past and future histories, as well as recognising the importance of history to democracy.

The building is easily accessible to all citizens and visitors, the third point, whether they be older people, babies in a kinderwagon, or people with disabilities. All can enter an participate.

Finally, being sensitive to the environmental impact of this building, in the same way which Walter Burley Griffin was in Canberra (which so impressed and influenced Giurgola’s design), the Reichstag now puts sustainability at the heart of daily parliamentary activity.

For further notes on the environment aspects of the new German Parliament, see here.

Photo credit: “iStock.com/camris”. Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from Foster and Partners.

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