Architecture Update

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The Independent Culture
Fall and rise of the Reichstag's dome

AFTER months of debate, the German parliament last week voted to rebuild the dome of the Reichstag (demolished for structural reasons in 1954) against the advice of its architects, Sir Norman Foster & Partners, which last year won the competition to convert the building into the new seat of the parliament in Berlin.

During the second stage of the competition, when the architects revised their original scheme (which featured a huge, Stansted airport-style roof and canopy over the entire building), Sir Norman said that rebuilding the dome 'poses no technical problems beyond that of yet further cost . . . however, at a philosophical level, we question the need for purely symbolic reasons of building higher than necessary and spending more money for questionable effect'.

The final scheme incorporates a device to concentrate and redirect natural light into the new chamber, as well as a natural ventilation system. The public will be allowed access to the roof and dome.

Goldfinger lived here

THE NATIONAL Trust next week will announce that it has acquired 2 Willow Road, Hampstead, north London, a house designed for his own use by the Hungarian emigre architect Erno Goldfinger in 1937. The purchase has been made possible through a tax procedure that allows executors to offer sculptures and paintings to the nation in lieu of inheritance tax. Willow Road is the first Modern movement house acquired by the National Trust. It retains many of its original furnishings and works of art.

The trust says: 'The house and contents are a remarkable example of Modern architecture and design, vividly bringing to life the impact of emigre artists and intellectuals who settled in Hampstead at that time.' The house will be open to the public from April 1996 after repairs have been carried out.

Avant guardians

AS Tower Bridge celebrates its 100th birthday, the vacant site at its southern end has been chosen for a spectacular new housing development designed by the architect Will Alsop, who has just completed the radical Hotel du Department in Marseilles. The scheme, commissioned by the London Borough of Southwark, is for 153 one-, two- and three-bedroomed flats housed in an L-shaped building with undulating sides and rooftop gardens. The lower half of the building will be supported partially on stilts and split into two horizontal divisions by a floor of communal facilities such as cafes and a creche.

The owners of the adjacent site, St Martin's Property Corporation, which has planning permission to build a Neo-Venetian office behemoth, has objected to the Alsop design. A company spokesman says: 'We don't want anything that's avant-garde in that location, because it would detract from the lettability of our scheme.'

Farrell's master plan

AFTER a six-month study for the Port of Lisbon Authorities, Terry Farrell & Company's ideas for a 14km stretch of river frontage went on exhibition in the city this week. The study, one of Europe's largest master planning projects, sets out a framework for future infrastructure and development as a response to the rationalisation of Lisbon's commercial port activities. The master plan, won in an invited open competition, is the first for the giant port. An exhibition of Farrell's plans is being held at the Gare Maritima de Alcantcana Ferry Terminal, Lisbon, until 31 July.

Look, it's a bird

THE EXTENSION of the TGV railway south from Lyon to Valence has led to construction of a spectacular station to serve Lyon-Satolas airport. The station, designed by the Spanish architect-engineer Santiago Calatrava, is an inventive and highly sculptural steel-and-glass structure that culminates in a concourse built in the shape of a giant bird. The station cost about pounds 100m and is expected to handle 270,000 passengers a year. Last month, the French government gave the go-ahead to extend the line to Marseilles and Montepellier. The line is expected to be completed by 2000.