saai | Archive for Architecture and Engineering

Digital Collection Egon Eiermann

Abgeordnetenhaus (Parliamentary Offices)
1965-1969

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Abgeordnetenhaus (Parliamentary Offices)

In its role as the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bonn always had a rather provisional character. This was deliberately cultivated and regarded as politically desirable, for the town was only meant to fulfill that function temporarily, pending the anticipated reunification of the two Germanys. Any comprehensive plan for a government district might have been interpreted as an acceptance of permanent partition, and was hence automatically barred from consideration. The government made do with existing buildings, which were converted and expanded. At least during the first fifteen years of the Federal Republic, these were only hesitantly supplemented by new construction, and then only in response to the most pressing needs.

The federal building authorities did not concern themselves with future-oriented overall planning until 1962, supported by a specially appointed planning team composed of consulting architects Paul Baumgarten, Egon Eiermann, and Sep Ruf. Under strict seal of secrecy, they prepared comprehensive plans for Bonn's government district. In a departure from their original advisory functions, Ruf was later commissioned in 1965 with the design of a building for the second chamber of parliament, the Bundesrat, Baumgarten with the Office of Press and Information, and Eiermann with the Bundestag (first chamber) including the Abgeordnetenhaus. The latter-mentioned building was the only one actually to be constructed, as the overall plan turned out to be neither politically nor financially realizable.

For reasons of practicability, only a site in the immediate vicinity of the Bundestag could be considered for the Abgeordnetenhaus. Yet a substantial architectural volume had to be provided, for beside offices for 450 Bundestag members and 120 secretaries, twenty committee rooms had to be accommodated. The available site was too small, allowing only vertical extension. In 1951, du ring a competition for the new Foreign Office, Eiermann had sharply criticized such disparities between mass and surface area. Now he found himself in the awkward position of having to erect a one hundred meter-high building on the banks of the Rhine River–as a last resort, a definition that for Eiermann applied to all high-rises. Through the functionally justified subdivision of the twenty-nine-story structure, and combined with the filigree galleries and horizontal blinds typical of his work, Eiermann achieved a design that mitigated the mass and height of the building.

Parliamentarians simply referred to the building as "NH" (for "new high-rise"), in distinction to the eight-story "old high-rise" of the representatives. The nationally familiar nickname "Langer Eugen" (Long Eugen) was a reference to the president of the parliament Eugen Gerstenmaier, who had initiated construction of the Abgeordnetenhaus. Also in circulation were epithets such as "Parliamentary Candle," "Parliamentary Office Machine," and "Federal Skyscraper," clear expressions of the widespread attitude of ambivalence toward this "Colossus on the Rhine."

Today, after reunification and the relocation of the government from Bonn to Berlin, the building-now listed as a protected monument-has become a sightseeing attraction, namely as one of the twelve stations on the "Path of Democracy" that offers access to the former government district.

Annemarie Jaeggi

"Egon Eiermann 1904-1970. Architect and Designer", Ed. Annemarie Jaeggi, Hatje Cantz: Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, p. 203

Project-specific information

Project Abgeordnetenhaus (Parliamentary Offices)
Persons involved
  • Egon Eiermann, Architektur
  • Horstheinz Neuendorff, Fotografie
Project period 1965-1969

Object-specific information

Typology Bürobauten Regierung, government office buildings

Site-specific information

Country Deutschland
City Bonn