The Bundesrat is located at Leipziger Strasse 3-4, on the edge of Berlin’s parliamentary and government district. Since September 2000, this is where the Bundesrat, which represents the federal states of the Federal Republic of Germany, has held its meetings, in the former Prussian House of Lords building, not far from Potsdamer Platz.
An Important Historical Site
When it left the Bundeshaus in Bonn, the Bundesrat moved into an imposing building in Berlin, with over one hundred years of political history.
Initially, two separate buildings were constructed at Leipziger Strasse 3-4 in 1734. From 1825, Leipziger Strasse 3 was home to the Mendelssohn Bartholdy family and this is where Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy composed the overture for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 1827. After the property was sold, the first chamber of the Prussian parliament, the Prussian House of Lords, began to meet in the building in 1851; all its members were appointed by the king.
Since 1761 the Royal Porcelain Manufactory (KPM) had been based next door, at Leipziger Strasse 4. As this building was a suitable size and centrally located, the German Empire, founded in 1871, chose to use it as temporary accommodation for the new Reichstag (Imperial Diet), and the manufactory re-located to Berlin’s Charlottenburg district.
When the new Reichstag building was completed in 1894, the Reichstag moved out of Leipziger Strasse 4. The two existing edifices at Leipziger Straße 3 and 4 were demolished and work began on an imposing new building for the Prussian House of Lords. Completed in 1904, it was constructed to plans by the architect Friedrich Schulze-Kolbitz, who had previously designed the Prussian House of Representatives’ new seat. Since 1993, the Berlin House of Representatives has been based there; it is located slightly to the south and is still linked to the Bundesrat via a passageway.
Steeped in history, the Prussian House of Lords building is emblematic of the multiple fault-lines that run through 20th-century German history. During the 1918 November Revolution, the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council met here; the Prussian House of Lords was dissolved along with the monarchy. From 1921 to 1933 the Prussian State Council, representing the provinces of Prussia, had its seat in the building. Konrad Adenauer, who was President of the State Council, subsequently became the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Prussian Ministry for Social Welfare was also based here.
During the National Socialist era, the building was initially transferred to what was known as the Preußenhaus (Prussia House) Foundation and came under the aegis of the neighbouring Reich Aviation Ministry; the Reich Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs, created in 1935, also had its headquarters here.
After 1945, the building, which was badly damaged in the Second World War, was located in the Soviet sector. After 1946, part of it was used by the newly founded Academy of Sciences, which was later joined by the Akademieverlag publishing house and the GDR State Planning Commission. After 1961, like many other buildings directly adjacent to the Berlin Wall, history cast its shadow upon the former Prussian House of Lords for decades.
A Modern Parliamentary Seat
In 1996 the Bundesrat decided, like the government and many ministries, to move to Berlin. The building at Leipziger Strasse 3-4 offered both imposing architecture and a long history. Work to convert the building for the Bundesrat began in 1997, based on plans from Hamburg-based architects Schweger + Partner. The Bundesrat held its first plenary session in its new seat on 29th September 2000.
The building combines surviving historical features with modern architecture attuned to the special demands of parliamentary business. The newly designed plenary chamber at the heart of the building incorporates a modern glass ceiling, an echo of the preceding version, which was completely destroyed in the Second World War.
Striking artistic highlights punctuate the architecture, with Per Kirkeby’s sculptures on the roof and Rebecca Horn’s kinetic art installation The Three Graces in the foyer. Landscape architect Gustav Lange’s design for the cour d’honneur recalls Baroque gardens; 35 terracotta pots with hydrangea bushes are framed by box hedges. As if by chance, the number of pots corresponds to the number of votes that make up an absolute majority in the Bundesrat, as required for most of the decisions taken by the plenary.