A Parliamentary Building Speaks Volumes – The New Parliament Building for the Principality of Liechtenstein
Since February 2008 the MPs of Liechtenstein have had a new home. With the ‘Long House’, the ‘High House’ and the ‘Joining House’ the architect Hansjörg Göritz has translated into the modern age the idea of “a stone-roofed building as a timeless archetype for holding and sheltering a legislative assembly”. And in doing so he has created a new landmark for Vaduz.
In the year 2000 the Hansjörg Göritz architectural studio from Hanover won the competition for the Parliament Building. The winning design was for a three-storey ‘Long House’ with offices, conference rooms and a terrace, as well as a two-storey ‘High House’ with a distinctive pitched roof. A glazed structure forms the ‘Joining House’ in between. The new buildings are set at the base of a steep slope among the existing ensemble of government buildings dating from 1905, a parish church from 1872 and a federal state museum. The new buildings, the forecourt and the retaining structure were built using around a million bricks custom-made in a Swiss brickworks.
In the parliamentary assembly hall, the architect’s idea has evolved into an archaic shape and an almost theatrical atmosphere. Located above a columned hall on the ground floor, the assembly hall with its 18-metre-high pitched roof of yellow brick is evocative of the Round Table. At first glance the room looks like a film set by Ken Adams. So it comes as no surprise that the large chandelier with its diameter of 9 metres has about it something of the style of the legendary set designer. The point of departure at the brainstorming sessions on the lighting for the assembly hall was, however, its almost church-like impression. A first approach foresaw small, individual pendant luminaires of the sort often seen in church naves. But when it emerged that the hall would require cameras and microphones for online coverage, the large circular chandelier proved to be the better option since it could inconspicuously integrate the necessary technical modules.
From a functional point of view, the assembly hall called for sufficient horizontal illuminance levels on the table and appropriate vertical illuminance levels of a high uniformity for shadow-free facial recognition. Bright lighting accents were also required to emphasize the representative character of the room. The chandelier has therefore been fitted with both directional and diffuse lighting components. To retain its homogeneous appearance, both light sources are concealed behind a bronze mesh that has been fitted on a frame to form the lower edge of the luminaire ring. The individual panels can be removed for maintenance. In one simple movement they can be opened up into a safe maintenance position.
A particular challenge was to develop an appropriate pendant construction for the chandelier. The countless wires for the 36 compact fluorescent lamps, 72 halogen lamps, eight microphones and four dome cameras had to be led to their connectors in a functional and inconspicuous manner. Finally, a solution was found by grouping the cables into twelve bundles. Each strand is threaded through a 20-millimetre tubular profile of the chandelier pendant construction. Without visible brackets or attachments the tubes disappear into the brickwork of the pitched roof. In addition to the chandelier, four downlights create a discreet general illumination. They are recessed in the roof ridge and can be lowered by means of simple cable winches.
The ‘Joining House’ serves as a transit zone between the High House and the Long House. In the midst of the relatively massive brick buildings this section has been executed as a filigree glass structure. The aim here was not to compromise its lightness and transparency with visible luminaires.
The lighting designers opted for a near-ground light groove to provide for the required light quantities in the circulation areas. These light coves were tightly integrated into the architecture and fitted with custom-made LED light strips. These are set so far into the coves that they cannot be seen from ordinary viewing angles. A relatively narrow beam distribution and a slight slant of the profiles inside the grooves limits the spill of light almost exclusively to the pathways. Recessed LED strips also illuminate the undersides of the bridges that serve to connect the Long House and the High House on the upper levels.
The Long House sweeps round in a gentle curve at the foot of the mountain slope and houses offices, conference rooms and a café. The elegant functional and common rooms have been fitted with suspended wooden ceilings. In order not to interfere with the fine materials and texture of these surfaces, the luminaires had to be integrated with the interior as harmoniously as possible. Instead of from downlights with conspicuous reflectors or luminaires mounted on the wooden surface, the light emanates from sources mounted above the ceiling panels. They are concealed by plates of satin-finish acrylic glass. Thanks to laser cutting technology the plates sit absolutely precisely and flush in the ceiling apertures.
In the stairwells there is also consistent use of wall-recessed, flush luminous surfaces. Configured as light ribbons, they flank the flights of stairs from the upper floors to the basement. This was the only means of continuing uninterrupted illumination all the way through to the corridor areas of the basement, which is important since there are no doors separating the stairwell and the basement.
Illuminated Sun Screen
The Long House curving round the foot of the slope is characterised by the brises-soleils – columnar brick louvers positioned in front of the window façade in order to control the incidence of solar radiation and to frame the building towards the square. Illuminated at night by floor-recessed luminaires, these sun screen elements become reflective surfaces, resulting in a distinctive rhythmic contrast between strips of light and shadow.
Contrasting with the exterior illumination of the Long House, the High House emanates light from within. But since the luminous intensities have been sensitively coordinated, the two building volumes nevertheless form a harmonious ensemble. The entrance area in the gable façade of the High House has been accorded the brightest illumination.
Shadow Play on the Slope
Protruding from the slope reinforcement wall are the faceplates of the ground anchors, forming a sort of relief. Almost inevitably they led to the idea of a luminous orchestration using intense grazing light. Through strongly directional in-ground luminaires the ground anchors cast long shadows on the wall. These have a dramatic plasticity which brings the lane between the wall and the Long House to life. The roof terrace of the Long House is flanked on one side by a softly illuminated wall facing the square and on the other by a play of light and shadow on the slope-reinforcing construction.
Far from the usual convoluted array of technical service channels, the ceiling of the underground car park is characterised by a calm, smooth concrete surface, perforated only by flush-mounted recessed downlights and downlight wallwashers. This general illumination, unusually brilliant for underground parking facilities, is supplemented by a warm white highlighting of the brick wall niches by means of linear lighting profiles.
Efficient Energy Use
In all areas of the newly constructed Parliament ensemble the luminaires are fitted with energy-saving lamps. For the café, conference rooms and assembly hall the lighting designers chose low-voltage halogen lamps which employ the new IRC technology and thus also offer high energy efficiency. All lamps operate exclusively with electronic control gears. Motion-detection lighting control reduces the energy consumption in all relevant zones.
Design team: Architekt: Architekturstudio Hansjörg Göritz; Hannover
Kontaktarchitekt: Frick Architekten AG, Vaduz
Lichtplanung: Licht Kunst Licht, Bonn / Berlin
Client: Hochbauamt Vaduz