Reichstag deducts marks from Foster's bill

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The Independent Online
SOME GERMAN politicians are beginning to regret hiring a British outfit to renovate the Reichstag, despite having been sufficiently satisfied in April to award the Federal Order of Merit - one of Germany's most prestigious decorations - to the architect, Sir Norman Foster.

Since the parliament building was ceremonially handed over, relations between Sir Norman and the German government have soured. The agency financing the restoration now claims to have discovered various flaws, and is refusing to pay the remainder of Sir Norman's not inconsiderable fee.

The architect's earnings from the DM600m (pounds 200m) project were to have been DM41m. He complains he is still missing DM4.8m. But the government counters that Sir Norman will not get a pfennig more until he fixes the faults, including dodgy seats in the visitors' gallery, and psychedelic wall panelling in meeting rooms that allegedly makes some MPs dizzy.

The protagonists have reached stalemate. Sir Norman says he has been advised by his lawyers to stop work until he gets his money; the government says he will not be paid unless he completes the job.

It is not the first time that Sir Norman has found himself in conflict with his German clients. The politicians fiddled with his original design, imposing the glass dome that has become one of Berlin's most popular landmarks. He was also overruled in his redesign of the German national emblem. Sir Norman came up with a sleek, vigorous eagle, but MPs could not part with the version that had been hanging for decades in Bonn and the "Fat Hen" was brought to Berlin.

The most serious controversy concerns the graffiti left behind by Russian soldiers in 1945. The architect was instructed to preserve the few that were not rude. Right-wing politicians say Sir Norman was overzealous. Some fading Cyrillic inscriptions, now lovingly restored, are said to be along the lines of "Up yours, Germany".