The building that I am going to write about in this essay is the Reichstag building. This building is situated in Berlin, Germany. The Reichstag was built in 1894 by the architect Paul Wallot. The Reichstag housed the German parliament up until it was severely damaged by the fire in 1933; in 1945 it was almost destroyed by the bombing in WW2 and restored in the 1960s. I chose to write about this building because I am captivated by its turbulent history and although it has continually undergone changes and major disruption, it has always been a symbol of democracy.
Before the Reichstag was built the German parliament had to assemble in several different places. So in 1872 an architectural contest was held to design a whole new building, there were 103 architects competing. However because of problems with purchasing property and arguments between Wilhelm I and the members of the Reichstag about how the Reichstag should be built. Work did not start until ten years later.
This time there was another architectural contest held. This time there were 189 architects competing and the Frankfurt architect Paul Wallot was declared the winner.
The Reichstag when it was built was the first example of a simpler but a much more powerful version of Neo-baroque. The Reichstag can be argued as a Neo Baroque or as a Neo Classical building, Neo classical style is a style that emerged from the Neo classical movement that began in the late 18th century, in its purest this style can be principally derived from the architecture of ancient Greece. Neo baroque is defined as the ostentatious historicist style that emerged as a reaction against the “cold impersonality” of Neoclassicism towards the end of the nineteenth century.
The neo- Baroque tends to relish overloaded sculptural and painted interior decoration. I remember the time when I first saw the Reichstag, I had read so much about its past and when I finally saw the building physically I was blown away. I arrived there in the afternoon and when I saw the elevation of the Reichstag, my eyes were drawn directly to the great glass dome, which dominates Berlin’s skyline and is a truly modern example of innovation in design. As I continued to look down the building my vision was met by the nineteenth century stone structure and its solid classical orders.
When I looked at the Western elevation the Reichstag still holds a huge amount of its original classical design which was configured by Paul Wallot. Wallot’s design was mainly decided by aesthetic achievements such as harmonious proportion and also by creating an impression of magnificence. The central portico of the facade of the Reichstag is of a traditional design. The portico is held up and supported by the six Corinthian columns, which stick out just a little bit to make its colonnade. Like the palace of Versailles and the Rashtrapati Bhawan symmetry is the key component to the design of the Reichstag.
The portico is joined to the Corinthian columns by the six Corinthian pilasters, the columns extend over two storeys and meet at the towers where they join. The towers protrude against the Corinthian columns and provide a balance with the central portico. I feel that Paul Wallot’s has used the Corinthian order very well because the order surrounds the Reichstag with elegance. I think that Paul Wallot was right not to use the other orders such as the Doric or the Ionic even if these orders represent strength, because the Reichstag represents the German people.
The most important aspect of this building’s facade would be the inscription on the central pediment: Dem Deutschen Volke which means: To the German people. This inscription was not a part of Paul Wallot’s original design but was added in 1916 because of the realignment of democracy and to express a change. Before the Reichstag was destroyed in the early 20th century the cupola made of steel and glass designed by Paul Wallot was acclaimed as a masterpiece of engineering of its time.
The cupola was originally dedicated to the Wilhelm and the four towers at the corners of the Reichstag represented the four kingdoms of Germany. After World War Two the Reichstag was essentially a ruin and there was no real use for the building since the capital of West Germany was established in Bonn. After some debate as to whether the building should be demolished or restored, it was decided that the Reichstag should be restored. However the cupola of the building was severely damaged by the bombing and had to be demolished.
So another contest was held and Paul Baumgarten was declared the winner to reconstruct the Reichstag. Paul Baumgarten did not fully restore the building but made it safe from harmful elements and partially refurbished it but he took the dome out of the design. The Reichstag building is made up of four floors, the ground floor is the plenary chamber, the second floor is the presidium offices, the third floor is the parliamentary party floor and the fourth floor is the roof which at present also holds the dome designed by Lord Norman Foster but in the past it used to hold the dome designed by Paul Wallot.
Through the turbulent years of the Reichstag the plenary chamber has gradually expanded and made more spatial firstly by Paul Baumgarten then by Lord Norman Foster. Foster closely held the classical style that had already been established by the building and by re-establishing the dome which was taken out by Baumgarten it would look as if Foster mostly reconstructed the original design of the Reichstag. However, shadowed underneath the classical icon it once was lies Foster’s spatial construction and innovative use of glass to change and modernise the interior and the facade of the Reichstag.
With the new glass dome on top of the Reichstag Foster created a new symbol of democracy and personified the Reichstag with the spirit of the 21st century spirit. When looking at the Reichstag the classical style that was already present in the original design of the building and the new dome that was added work mutually as one to represent the history of the Reichstag. In conclusion I think that the Reichstag does not communicate the voice of its current political regime on the contrary it communicates its past unlike the Palace of Versailles and The Rashtrapati Bhawan.
When looking at the Reichstag it indicates that the classical style alone would have been unsuitable for the new political regime and democracy. As a result the Reichstag communicates with its own new found architectural language which is full of innovation, democracy and the voice of the public. This new language that the Reichstag created has become a global achievement and an inspiration to architects of the Louis Weis building, the Scottish Parliament building and the Madou Plaza tower.
Cite this History of the Reichstag
History of the Reichstag. (2017, Mar 20). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/history-of-the-reichstag/