Following German reunification on October 3, 1990 the Bundestag (German Federal Parliament) decided, one year later, to make the Reichstag the seat of Parliament in Berlin, the restored capital of reunited Germany. After a complete restoration of Paul Wallot’s original 1894 building by Paul Wallot, the Bundestag reconvened here in Sir Norman Foster’s spectacularly restored Reichstag building on April 19, 1999.
The Reichstag suffered damage and destruction over the course of the 20th century. The fire of 1933 completely destroyed the original plenary hall and it was necessary to demolish the original dome in 1954. Paul Baumgarten´s restoration completed in 1961 gave the building a new function as a venue for parliamentary committee meetings and exhibitions, located in the Western part of divided Berlin, just beyond the Wall, a short walk north of the Brandenburg Gate.
After reunification and the Bundestag’s move from Bonn to Berlin it became necessary to equip and thoroughly modernise the languishing building. The British architect, Sir Norman Foster was commissioned to carry out the mammoth conversion project which caused heated controversy as his original design of a baldachin roof covering the entire building was rejected in 1995. The Bundestag voted for a slightly more conservative reconstruction of the original dome in modern guise. In fact the Reichstag’s new dome or cupola with its vast central glass cylinder is amongst the most impressive features visually and technically designed to reflect natural light into the plenary chamber. It provides natural ventilation and light with a mirror system which directs light inside the chamber during the day and reflects it back at night. Ecological considerations about renewable energy sources resulted in heating and air-conditioning technology fuelled by rape seed oil with underground refrigeration and heating units.
A visit to the Reichstag is a must. Visitor highlights include a lift ride to the top of the building to a large viewing terrace for the breathtaking views of Tiergarten, the dome and the mirror cylinder at the centre. The Lift to the cupola is from 8 am -10 pm and the viewing platform area is open until midnight.
There are often queues outside the main entrance for the lifts and they can get quite long at certain times. A special entrance to the left is available if you are disabled, have a restaurant reservation or are with small children. Attendants are helpful and will point visitors in the right direction.
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