Parliament Square wins another design prize

The award-winning Parliament Square in Bern

The renovated square in front of the Swiss federal parliament building has been awarded a prestigious prize by the American Institute of Architects.

This content was published on January 17, 2006

The square, which was reopened in the Swiss capital, Bern, after a facelift in 2004, picked up the 2006 Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design.

"We're very pleased," Bern's mayor, Alexander Tschäppät, told swissinfo. "It's the second prize we won – we've already got the prize from the state of California.

"We are proud because we can prove that we're also able to react in a very modern way in an old city."

This reflected the view of the institute's jury, which commented that Parliament Square was "a successful modern intervention in an historic setting that is sublime... demonstrates impressive design restraint... allowed traditional civic activities of plaza to continue".

Driving force

Tschäppät, who was a driving force behind the square's renovation, said: "I think the special thing is that it's in front of a federal government and you have no police and no security.

"This mixture of architecture and our way of living in a democratic country is very special."

Tschäppät said he was thinking about going to pick up the prize personally in Los Angeles in June.

"I also think that we should react in Bern in one way or another celebrating this very popular square."

He added that the square was "in excellent company" with previous winners, such as the Picasso Museum in Malaga or the Washington Convention Center, and that the once-controversial design now enjoyed a high level of acceptance among experts.


Swiss-US architect Stephan Mundwiler and designers Ruedi Stutz and Christian Stauffenegger remodelled the former car park in front of the parliament building with 3,600 granite slabs from the Alps.

Hidden in the ground are 26 water jets – one for each of Switzerland's cantons.

At the opening ceremony for the renovated square on August 1, 2004, Mundwiler said the aim of the architectural redesign was to create an open space next to a building richly decorated with elements of Switzerland's iconography.

A white strip, which is illuminated at night, runs through the centre of the 2,200m² square, guiding visitors to the front entrance of the parliament building.

The open space, which is lined by buildings from the early 20th century, is used for official ceremonies, as a venue for political demonstrations and for the city's vegetable market.

But the city's architectural visions haven't stopped. Tschäppät points to the collaboration with Renzo Piano, who constructed the Zentrum Paul Klee, and current plans for a shopping area with Daniel Libeskind, who designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin.


Key facts

Parliament Square in Bern has won the 2006 American Institute of Architecture award for regional and urban design.
The prize will be awarded on June 9 in Los Angeles.
Parliament Square was reopened a year ago after getting a SFr8 million ($6.2 million) facelift.
Last July the square won a design award from the California Council of the American Institute of Architects.

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