Six of the best examples of German architecture

Since 1990, October 3 has been cause for celebrations all over Germany as its national day is honoured. Called German Unity Day, this public holiday marks the anniversary of the reunification of West and East Germany. On this day in history, Germany was formally made a single nation state for the first time in 45 years, ending a time of great divide and national sadness.

The tumultuous history of Germany, along with its many different eras, can be seen in the architecture that stands throughout the country, offering physical reminders of the events and times gone by. From the monumental to the modern, there is no doubt that German architecture features impressive structures not to be missed.

1. Berlin Television Tower

Located in central Berlin, the Television Tower (Fernsehturm) was constructed before German unification between the years 1965 and 1969 by the Government of what was then East Germany.


Today, it’s still a prominent Berlin landmark, and at 368 metres in height including its antennae it’s clearly visible from the city and remains the tallest edifice in Germany. Famously, the structure stands 220 metres taller than the 1920s-built Berlin Radio Tower on the western side of the city. Open to the general public, it offers amazing panoramic views of Berlin and beyond.

Berlin Television Tower was built in four years. Designed by a team led by Hermann Henselmann, it was constructed as a symbol of the superiority of Communism. The era of a divided Germany has passed into history, but the television tower is still a symbol of Germany and an iconic feature of the Berlin skyline.

2. Stuttgart City Library

The new Stuttgart City Library opened on October 2, 2011, and was designed by Yi Architects, who won the privilege in the 1999 competition. To focus on the library as a cultural hub, it was decided that the building should have a prominent physical presence.

The overall shape is a cube, with each edge length measuring 45 metres. It’s constructed from a very pale grey concrete that serves to frame the façade of 9×9 metre bricks of frosted glass. The outer shell of the structure has been designed with two facades, including the glass bricks and an inner transom façade acting as a thermal shell for the library.

Illuminated by a centrally placed roof light, the library features a grand fountain creating an area for reflection. Inside, the library is split over five floors, square in shape, encompassed by a shell of the collected books and flooded with daylight from the sky above.

3. Hohenzollern Castle

Situated on top of Mount Hohenzollern, this astonishing castle is the ancestral home of House Hohenzollern. The site of three castles over the years, the first was built at the beginning of the 11th Century but destroyed following a 10-month siege in 1423. The second castle was stronger and stood through the Thirty Years War, but fell into a state of disrepair by the late 18th Century and many of the more damaged buildings needed to be demolished. The third and present Castle was constructed between the years 1846 and 1867 by King Frederick William IV of Prussia.

Designed by Architect Friedrich August Stüler, the castle was inspired by the architecture of the English Gothic Revival. The mountain castle features many impressive examples of military architecture, including the Eagle Gate complete with fortified drawbridge that allows entrance to the citadel and a winding ‘zwinger’ (the German term for an open area used for defence) that twists four times, culminating in the castle’s bastions.

4. Cologne Cathedral

A remarkable example of Gothic architecture, the elegant Cologne Cathedral was declared a site of World Heritage in 1996 and considered Germany’s most visited landmark. At 157 metres in height, it’s the tallest church with twin spires in Germany. From a distance, the massive spires dominate the design and are powerfully Germanic in style using an open work frame.

Cologne Cathedral takes design queues from Amiens Cathedral in terms of its style and height to width proportions of its central nave. In plan, typical for Gothic-style cathedrals, it forms a Latin Cross. Twin aisles on either side of the cathedral support a Gothic vault among the highest in the world.

5. Kö-Bogen

A multi-use building, Kö-Bogen is a shining example of modern German architecture. Covering 432,300 square feet, the structure houses both retail and office space. It comprises two city blocks in downtown Dusseldorf joined by a continuous roof line to form a unified area for working walking and shopping.

Aesthetically, the building is designed to fit in with its surrounds and features verdant courtyards and green roofing, along with a façade with permeated cuts. Combining both urban and park space, the structure rises above what would normally be a utilitarian design.

Kö-Bogen has been constructed using both curved and straight geometry. Its straight lines are intended as a reflection of the city while its curved lines through and about its courtyards are planned to create fluid links with the pedestrians using them.

6. The Reichstag Building

The Reichstag is a historical building based in Berlin, designed to house the German Empire’s Imperial Diet. It was officially opened in 1894 and was home to the Diet until 1933 when the building caught fire and was severely damaged. Following World War II, the Reichstag was rarely used, as the parliament of West Germany met in Bonn at the Bundeshaus, while East Berlin’s Palast der Republik served as the home of parliament on the other side of the Berlin Wall.

In the 1960s, the dilapidated building was protected from the weather and parts were refurbished, but a full restoration was not attempted until after the reunification of Germany in 1990 on October 3. Under architect Norman Foster, reconstruction began, reaching completion in 1999 where it was reinstated as the meeting house for the new German parliament. During the reconstruction a huge glass dome was added affording incredible views of the night sky.

The official ceremony for German reunification was held at the Reichstag building in a grand event and a day after, German parliament assembled there to symbolise the united nation.

From cathedrals and castles, to towers of record heights, there are many examples of the extraordinary feats of German architects and engineers. From centuries-long past to eras of division and into this age of unity, one thing is certain – the skill and attention to their work will always ensure the German nation is remembered for the amazing buildings that grace its lands.

Posted by Mark
October 3, 2019

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