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Reichstag Observation Deck, Berlin, Germany

A view of the observations deck, inside the dome of the Reichstag (parliament building) in Berlin, Germany.

I first visited the Reichstag in 1984, when Germany was still a divided country and the capital of West Germany was hundreds of miles away, in Bonn. The Reichstag at that time was being used for a display titled 'Questions in German History'. The Berlin Wall was just a few yards east of the building. Our group had lunch in a back room with a view of the Wall, while East German border guards with binoculars watched us from the other side.

The interior of the main chamber was set up with temporary chairs, the number of chairs corresponding to the number of representatives that a reunited Germany would have. By then, Germany had been divided for almost 40 years, and very few people believed the chamber would ever be used. Five years later, the Wall came crashing down.

Through the glass panels visitors can get a view of the main chamber of the German government, where representatives meet to debate and vote on legislation. The design represents transparency in government – an important idea for any country, but especially for one with a very problematic past. Around the observation deck, visual display panels trace the history of the building, and of government in Germany.

The central column of mirrors reflects light into the chamber, and also acts as an air duct, pulling hot air out of the chamber through convection – and with all those government representatives in the chamber, there's a lot of hot air.

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