Bent glass domes flood the interior of buildings with daylight and are impressive architectural elements of elegant structures. Bent glass domes are practical sources of inside light as well as beautiful outdoor impressions.
The Reichstag dome is a large bent glass dome with a 360-degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. The debating chamber of the Bundestag, the German parliament, can be seen down below. A mirrored cone in the center of the bent glass dome directs sunlight into the building to allow visitors to see the working of the chamber. The bent glass dome is open to the public and can be reached by climbing two steel spiraling ramps that resemble a double helix. The bent glass dome symbolizes that the people are above the government, which was not the case during National Socialism. The bent glass dome was also designed by Architect Norman Foster to be environmentally friendly. Energy efficient features involving the use of the daylight shining through the mirrored cone were applied, effectively decreasing the carbon emissions of the building. The futuristic and transparent design of the Reichstag bent glass dome makes it a unique landmark, and symbolizes Berlin’s attempt to move away from a past of Nazism and Communism and instead towards a future with a heavier emphasis on a united, democratic Germany. It looks distinctly similar to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial dome, a structure that stood out in the landscape after the nuclear bombing, invoking the memory of a Hiroshima devastated by the Atom Bomb.
With the reunification of Germany and the decision to move the capital from Bonn back to Berlin, it was also decided that the original Reichstag building be rebuilt along with a new bent glass dome that emphasized a unified Germany. Architect Norman Foster won a commission to design and rebuild the dome in 1993. Foster originally did not want a dome at all, but his original design of a parasolesque building was rejected, partly due to the unrealistic costs. The design of the bent glass dome was at first controversial, but has become accepted as one of Berlin’s most important landmarks. It derives from a design by Gottfried Böhm, who suggested a cupola of glass with visitors walking on spiral ways to the top in 1988 already. His design was added to the information of the competition in 1992, which was won by Foster. Later the Bundestag decided that a cupola had to be built and Foster consequently gave up his resistance against it.