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Parliament Square wins US design prize

Parliament Square has become a cool attraction in Bern


The renovated square in front of the Swiss federal parliament building has been awarded a prestigious prize in the United States.

The square, which was reopened a year ago, has become a public attraction because of its water jets.

The award from the California Council of the American Institute of Architects (AIACC) will be handed over in September.

Swiss-US architect Stephan Mundwiler of Santa Monica-based Lee + Mundwiler Architects is one of five winners of an Honour Award for Design this year.

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.

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.

Open space

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.

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.

The square and its water jets have become a popular attraction for tourists and the local population alike, particularly for children.

Christian Stauffenegger, one of the project designers, told the TagesAnzeiger newspaper he was proud of the award and pleased that people were using the remodelled urban space.

30-year debate

Bern’s mayor, Alexander Tschäppat, who had been a driving force behind the renovation of the square, said he was happy for the award-winning architect and designer team.

He said he was pleased that the local population had approved the redesign, ending a 30-year debate over Parliament Square.

Private sponsorship as well as funding from the federal authorities made the renovation possible.

But several cantons refused to contribute to the costs of the water jets because of tight public finances.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The American Institue of Architects, California Council (AIACC), is the largest state architectural organisation in the US.
Santa Monica-based Swiss architect Stephan Mundwiler of Lee + Mundwiler Architects is one of five winners of an Honour Award this year.
Parliament Square in the Swiss capital, Bern, was reopened a year ago after getting a SFr8 million ($6.2 million) facelift.

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