This is the fourth in the Photo of the Month series. Each month, I select one photo from the ClipPix ETC website and give a few examples of how teachers can make connections to various subject areas or use the photo a springboard for class discussion or individual research.

I took this photo at dusk in the summer of 1999. It’s one of about a dozen photos I took of or from the dome. Below are just a few of the possible classroom connections and questions related to this fascinating piece of architecture.


The pedestrian ramps within the dome are spirals. Compare the ramps with these examples of spirals in math, art, and nature.

Over 40 illustrations of spirals from the ClipArt ETC website.


Over 30 photos of spirals from the ClipPix ETC website.


In the Basilica Cistern post, we looked at arches, how arches can create barrel vaults, and how two barrel vaults intersecting create a goin vault.

A dome, on the other hand, is created when an arch is revolved around itself. Compare the Reichstag Dome to other photos and illustrations of domes.

Over 20 illustrations of historic domed structures from the ClipArt ETC website.


Over 30 photos of domes from the ClipPix ETC website.


The Reichstag building has played a significant role in the history of modern Germany including German unification, the Reichstag fire and the consolidation of Nazi power, the Battle of Berlin, and the German reunification.

  1. What role did the Reichstag play in each of the four historic events mentioned above?
  2. What was the symbolic reason glass was chosen for the new dome?
  3. German citizens and other visitors can walk on ramps high above the government chamber below and even peer down into the chamber itself. What is the symbolism intended by this arrangement?


The dome is a key feature of the environmentally-responsible design of the reconstructed Reichstag building. Mirrors bring natural light into the chamber below. At night, the process is reversed, and light from the chamber illuminates the dome of this landmark building. In summer, a moveable sunscreen blocks out direct light that would heat the chamber below, but in winter, the sunscreen moves out of the way.

  1. What role does the dome play in the building’s ventilation system?
  2. What can you discover about how underground lakes are used to heat and cool the building?


This photo was taken at the end of the decade of German reunification. Only ten years previous, East Berlin still had damaged buildings and leveled areas from WWII. The Berlin Wall, which ran near the Reichstag, created a no-man’s land where construction was not possible.

  1. What does this photo taken from the roof of the Reichstag suggest happened in the former Communist sector?
  2. Explore the economic changes that occurred when the former areas of East Germany were incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany.

Roy Winkelman is a 40+ year veteran teacher of students from every level kindergarten through graduate school. As the former Director of FCIT, he began the Center's focus on providing students with rich content collections from which to build their understanding. When not glued to his keyboard, Dr. Winkelman can usually be found puttering around his tomato garden in Pittsburgh. Questions about this post or suggestions for a future topic? Email me at To ensure that your email is not blocked, please do not change the subject line. Thank you!

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