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Tuesday, October 6, 1998 Published at 20:39 GMT 21:39 UK

World: Europe

Reconstructing the Reichstag

The dome bathes the Reichstag debating chamber in light

The German government invited architects from around the world to enter an international competition to design the new Reichstag in 1993.

A look round the new Reichstag
British architect Sir Norman Foster won the chance to remake the former and future home of the German parliament.

A team of 81 architects are working within a £250m budget to create a new building within the shell of the old structure by May next year.

Although 45,000 cubic metres of rubble have been removed from the site, the work has been a sensitive and delicate operation to preserve the layers of history within its walls.


[ image:  ]
The turbluent history of the Reichstag in many ways mirrors that of Germany over the past 100 years.

The original glass-domed building, designed by architect Paul Wallot, was completed in 1895.

It was destroyed in 1933 in a fire that marked the beginning of Hitler's rise to domination. He blamed the blaze on the communists but it is now generally believed to have been started by the Nazis as an excuse for clamping down on their enemies.

In 1945 the building was again struck by fire, this time by Russian troops who had marched on Berlin.

[ image: Vistors can walk above the politcians]
Vistors can walk above the politcians
The Reichstag remained empty while the West German parliament set up in Bonn and the East German parliament was based in East Berlin.

In the 1960s, the building was renovated during which much of the orginal architecture was destroyed.

After reunification in 1990, the German parliament voted to move back to Berlin from Bonn.

Sir Norman Foster

Sir Norman's overall plan for the Reichstag was to make it accessible and democratic.

Vast expanses of glass have been introduced to flood it with light. A new dome-like construction in the roof, which was included on the insistence of the German parliament, acts as an illuminating device for the debating chamber.

[ image: The project will be completed next year]
The project will be completed next year
Curving around the inside of it are spiral walkways which give visitors and impressive view both over the city and below into the debating chamber.

Many of Sir Norman Fosters other design achievements have a far more modern, high-tech and highly engineered feel.

London's Stansted airport, the Willis Faber building in Ipswich and the head office of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, as well as the new Hong Kong international airport are all examples of his work.

All of the projects fulfil his goal to create buildings that open up to the public, set an example on the environment and save money through the use of modern materials and advanced technology.

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