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Germans change tune on Foster's Reichstag

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The German government has revealed to the aj that it is in fact completely satisfied with the 'fantastic' Reichstag building designed by Foster and Partners and that the list of its outstanding problems is insignificant.

Contrary to widespread press reports, the government this week denied that the problems with the building are anything extraordinary. Despite coverage in the German and British press last week of the decision by the client company, bbb, to hold back £1.6 million in fees, German mp Dietmar Kansy, who heads the parliament's building commission, told the aj: 'The building is fantastic. All the parliamentarians feel the building is fantastic.'

The list of problems identified on the £200 million building had been reduced to less than 50 and included mps' desires to have mirrors and hooks in the lavatories, concern about the lack of confidentiality of telephones and complaints that the panelling in some committee rooms is giving mps headaches. These represent only about 1 per cent of the issues originally raised in Kansy's committee's regular meetings, which are regularly reported to the Berlin press.

Kansy added that there is no bad feeling against Foster, who is being treated in the way any architect would be, with some money withheld at the end of the project until problems are resolved. But there is concern that, by writing to Wolfgang Thierse, president of the parliament, Foster has introduced a political element that the Germans were trying to avoid.

The two houses of the government, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, set up a private company, bbb, to act as client, deliberately to keep politicians and political issues and influences (such as the sourcing of materials) out of the building process. By writing to Thierse, Foster has ignored this distinction. And neither Kansy nor bbb were aware of his letter until it was leaked to Berliner Zeitung.

Foster and Partners refused to comment on the issues this week, but categorically denied that it plans to sue the German government for the unpaid fees.

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