Monday, June 25, 2007


The photo above is the glass dome of the Rechstag, designed by Norman Foster. The Reichstag is home to the German Bundestag, which is the democratically elected Parliament. The building has often been cited for its “transparency and openness” as a symbol of a parliamentary democracy. For Foster, however, it seems that the environmental aspects of the building are more important that the symbolism.

In his own words.... “ As well as forming the public focus of the building, the Reichstag’s cupola, or ‘lantern’, provides the key to our strategies for lighting and ventilating the assembly chamber. At its heart is a light-reflecting cone – a light ‘sculptor’ and a sculpture in its own right. The cone is covered with faceted mirrors that together form a giant Fresnel lens just as you might find in a searchlight or a lighthouse. In fact the cone works as a lighthouse in reverse, reflecting daylight from a 360-degree horizon down into the chamber. An electronically controlled mobile sun-shade tracks the path of the sun to block solar gain and glare, but is designed to allow a little sunlight to dapple the floor of the chamber. In ventilation terms the cone and chamber together perform as a solar chimney, drawing air up naturally through the chamber and expelling it via the open top of the cupola. In ecological terms, the Reichstag has shown how public buildings can challenge the status quo: big buildings do not have to be big consumers of energy or big polluters. And although it represents a minuscule first step in terms of the journey yet remaining, imagine the impact these strategies could have is they were applied more widely around the world.”

“For me, with its environmental and democratic agenda, the cupola is certainly more closely related to Bucky’s humanist vision of the future that it is to the symbolism of the past.”

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