If the Berlin Wall was the ultimate symbol of Berlin’s, Germany’s and Europe’s division after WWII then one of the most enduring symbols of reunification of city, country and continent is the German Reichstag – the Parliament building.
Somewhat surprisingly after German unification in 1871 the building wasn’t completed and opened until 1894 and served as the country’s Parliament until 1933 when it was destroyed by fire. The fire was allegedly started deliberately by the Nazis and blamed on a Dutch communist, Marinus van der Lubbe, and subsequently abandoned with the post-war capital moved to Bonn. It lay in ruins until the 1960’s when it was weather-proofed.
During the Cold War the Berlin Wall ran only a few metres away from the building which was in the western half of the divided city and following German reunification in 1990 the official celebration was held in the building and a decision to return the German parliament to Berlin and the Reichstag was taken the following year.
An architectural competition for reconstruction was won by the English architect Norman Foster and his project was completed in 1999 with the first meeting of the Bundestag there on 19th April that year.
The most notable facet of the reconstruction was the iconic glass dome that now sits atop the building replacing the original cupola which provides 360º views over the city and includes solar panels, a spiral ramp and an oculus. This has helped make the Riechstag the second most visited attraction in Germany and has become in itself a symbol of the New Berlin.