On May 10, 1949, the Parliamentary Council decided Bonn to become the “provisional seat of the federal bodies” by secret ballot with 33 votes in favor and 29 votes against. The first session of the federal parliament took place on September 7, 1949, in the Plenary Hall of the Pedagogical Academy. Within just a few months architect Hans Schwippert had extended the academy’s premises to include a plenary hall. Adjacent to the old gymnasium that was transformed into a lobby, he built a new meeting room for 520 parliamentarians and a grandstand accommodating 400 visitors.
The Bundeshaus with the Plenary Hall designed by Hans Schwippert
In search of a proper capital, on November 3, 1949, the Federal Parliament decided in favor of Bonn. The Pedagogical Academy became the new parliament building. Up until the mid-1980s the Bundestag convened at the extension of the former gymnasium of the Academy, where today we find the Plenary Hall designed by Behnisch & Partners.
The Plenary Hall designed by Günter Behnisch
Planning for a new Plenary Hall started as early as in the 1970s. The architectural firm Behnisch & Partners from Stuttgart won the architectural competition to build a new Bundestag and Bundesrat, i.e. the parliament building and the building for the federal council, under the condition that they revise their draft. Planning and debate took up a number of years until in 1981 the parliamentarians opted at first to remodel the old venue that had become a class listed monument. Then, after more preliminary investigations and discussions, in 1987 the old facility was demolished. The new building was to be erected at the same site.
The interim Plenary Hall at the former waterworks
The year 1988 marked the beginning of construction works for the new Plenary Hall. After 20 years of planning and amending, the building was finally inaugurated on October 30, 1992, following a construction period of 5 years. During the construction period the parliament met at the neighboring former waterworks (from 1986 to 1992). This is where the unification of a divided Germany was decided and where the Federal Parliament voted on June 20, 1991, to relocate to Berlin. The last meeting of the Bundestag in Bonn took place in the new Plenary Hall on July 1, 1999.
The World Conference Center Bonn
It was in June of 1992 that the German parliament convened for the last time at the Bonn Plenary Hall. In fall of 1999 the former Plenary Hall became part of the World Conference Center Bonn. The Waterworks building was incorporated into the neighboring UN campus that hosts various organizations of the United Nations. After extensive remodeling it will be used for smaller events by the United Nations.
Bonn – the United Nations City
The first secretariats and agencies of the United Nations started to move to Bonn in 1996. Today more than 20 UN organizations have found a new home on the UN campus, counting roundabout 1,000 members of staff. A city that is seat to United Nations organizations needs an appropriate conference infrastructure to accommodate all types of meetings and even large conferences of the parties.
The extension of the conference center
The signing of the Bellevue Agreement was followed by a planning period to extend the Bonn conference center. Since its completion in 2015, the Main Building of the WorldCCBonn can offer more extensive capacities to host any type of event. With its Plenary Hall and the Main Building, the conference center provides ample space to carry out events for up to 7,000 participants within the two buildings.
Bonn as an international convention venue
Bonn and the WorldCCBonn have been able to show on many occasions that this city provides a suitable venue even for the largest meetings. Cases in point are two world climate summits, the International Freshwater Conference, the Afghanistan conferences, the International Conference on Renewable Energies, the UN Conference of the Parties on Biological Diversity and the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. In November of 2017, the World Climate Conference COP23 took place in Bonn. Boasting 22,000 participants from 190 countries, so far it has been the largest international conference ever to happen in Germany.