If you're ever in Berlin, we definitely recommend booking a free visit to famed architect Norman Foster's magnificent cupola at the Reichstag. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the Reichstag is a German capital landmark that was erected in 1894 as a parliament building. Due to a fire, the historic building was partially destroyed, but was then restored by Foster in a way that followed a rigorous environmental agenda.
The Reichstag opened in 1894 but was severely damaged by a fire in 1933. It was partially restored in the 60s, but the final work by British architects Fosters & Partners was done in 1999, causing it to flourish as the modern Bundestag. Featuring a magnificent-glazed cupola on its terrace roof, the building is now a radical and perfect example of energy efficiency and power storage.
The gorgeous glass cupola brings plenty of natural light and ventilation down to the parliament floors and into its own entrance, reflected by its mirrored-core. Helical ramps allow people to ascend to the cupola’s top, get a rest and enjoy a 360-degree view of the city — while symbolically standing above the heads of their elected representatives in the chamber below. A large sun shield tracks the movement of the sun electronically and blocks direct sunlight to avoid excess heat and uncomfortable glaze.
The restored Reichstag boasts a 94% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, uses renewable bio-fuel (refined vegetable oil) and provides energy for a few others parliaments buildings behind it. Almost like a power station, its surplus heat is stored as hot water 990 feet below the ground and comes back as heating during winter. According to Foster’s website, the transformation focused on 4 issues: “The significance of the Bundestag as a democratic forum, a commitment to the public accessibility, a sensitivity to history and a rigorous environmental agenda”.
Lead image courtesy of Foster and Partners, other photos © Ana Lisa Alperovich for Inhabitat