The Reichstag and the New Berlin

Lauren Ann Ross


This work examines the Reichstag’s emblematic role in Berlin’s history. Today the Reichstag is a major tourist attraction and home to Germany’s democratic parliament. However, the building has had a complicated history spanning five distinct times in German history: the Imperial Age and World War I, the troubled Weimar Republic, Nazism and World War II, the divided Cold War, and finally a unified Germany. The progressions of the building mirror those of German society and the city of Berlin over the pasts century, culminating in the vibrant Western European democratic country, city, and building we see today. Specifically, the revitalization of the Reichstag building itself through Christo’s wrapping project and Sir Norman Foster’s reconstruction were vital steps for a torn city to embrace its past while transitioning the building from a history museum into the seat of the German parliament. Furthermore, this change is emblematic of Berlin as a whole, in its quest for its own Hauptstadtkultur as the capital moved back to Berlin from Bonn. Architecture has played a significant role in this New Berlin, and the case of the Reichstag building is no different. Foster’s design, adding a modernist glass and steel dome to the nineteenth century building, emphasizes political transparency while maintaining traces of the past. Focusing on the example of the Reichstag, I argue that this merging of history and hope for the future has proved essential and successful, though often controversial, in recreating a unified, vibrant, and strong Berlin.


Reichstag; Berlin; German Architecture

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