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Fourth of July (from Krakow – 4 July 2010) August 30, 2010

Posted by Andrew Punnoose in Travel Log.
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Today is Independence Day! While I couldn’t spend it as I usually do, in the home of the brave and the land of the free, it was a great experience celebrating it in Poland. So far, all of my 4th of July’s have been spent either in Washington, D.C. or Boston, where it’s more of a week-long event than a single day, so spending it in a foreign country was more than a bit different. We went to an event hosted by the US Consulate, featuring a soul group from New Orleans, with a lead singer active enough to convince Darion (one of our fellow students) to get up on stage for a bit of performing of his own. When we walked out into the central square, we were greeted by Lady Liberty herself!

Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty walking among us in the central square

If you hadn’t caught on, we’re now in Krakow, having moved on from Berlin. Before we leave Berlin behind (figuratively speaking), I wanted to share a marvel of engineering: the Bundestag. Of course, the Bundestag might be known to some for its importance in the German political system, as it’s the lower unicameral house of the German Parliament, but I was blown away by the building itself.

The dome of the Bundestag (viewed from the roof of the building)

Here you see the dome over the building. Inside, you can see a spiraling ramp where you can receive a guided audio tour that accommodates your walking speed. This by itself is a pretty neat structure. The creativity that went into making the building energy efficient is mind-blowing, though.

The mirrors that redirect light into the Bundestag chamber below

These mirrors appear to be decorative, but are actually used to redirect sunlight into the actual chamber, positioned directly below. Each panel is gimbaled to allow it to be angled perfectly to catch the sun’s rays. The sun is directed through a glass ceiling over the chamber. This glass ceiling is also rather symbolically important, representing the transparency of the German government. But, you might ask, what about the glare? Wouldn’t the sun blind the parliamentarians seated below? Take a look at the picture below.

The sunshade that prevents glare from being redirected into the Bundestag chamber

This massive structure, extending almost 30 feet, is a giant sun shade. It tracks with the sun, rotating around the dome to prevent the sun’s glare from reaching the chamber. The attention to energy efficiency doesn’t stop with lighting though.

The vent that freshens the air of the Bundestag chamber

You might think this is a nuclear power plant cooling tower, and you wouldn’t be too far off the mark. There’s no nuclear fission taking place, but it actually is a cooling tower. This vent draws stale air from the chamber below and helps replace it with fresh air. If the building is being heated though, that heat energy in the air being vented is recaptured with a water capture system. The vent that you see in this photo has water coolant lines running through it, absorbing the heat from the air leaving the building and ensuring that as little as energy as possible is wasted. The attention to detail that we saw in this building was absolutely remarkable!



1. Chris Olson - September 2, 2010

neat! i had to do some more research after reading your post cause that dome sounded so cool. Apparently the building is technically called the Reichstag, and the institution is the Bundestag. It’s especially interesting to read about the dome’s designer, Norman Foster. He’s actually the same British architect who designed the famous “Gherkin” building in London!

It was also interesting to read about his extensive partnership with Buckminster Fuller, which saw the boom of environmentally-conscious design. Andrew, do you know much about Buckminster Fuller? If you haven’t you should read up on him, his work as an architect, mathematician, cartographer, earth-steward and more is fascinating. He’s even the one who popularized the term “Spaceship Earth!”

2. Chris Olson - September 2, 2010

hmm link above didn’t work, better one:

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