Federal Square is probably, after Rütli Meadow (the historical birthplace of the Swiss Confederation), Switzerland’s most symbolic location, and the precise, restrained form of the square’s architecture is intended to reflect this. The square contains a large 60 by 36 m rectangle of natural-stone paving, which is designed to parallel exactly the geometry of the Parliament building. The paving of the square is intersected by a gently curving illuminated strip, which guides the walker’s path from the neighbouring Bärenplatz square towards the Parliament building. A fountain with 26 water jets gives a sense of three-dimensional space to the square.
The square is paved with large (100 x 60 cm) symmetrically-arranged natural-stone flags, which provide a characteristic decorative element. The architects chose to use the characteristically veined “Gneis” stone from the Valser valley in the canton of The Grisons. This stone, with a colour that complements that of the surrounding sandstone buildings, helps give the square its unique identity.
The 26 jets, which shoot water up to a height of four metres, add to the atmosphere, by both day and night, of this fine city square. The water flows along channels cut into the surface of the square and into an underground tank, where it is cleaned and re-circulated. The fountain jets can all be controlled individually, which makes it possible to create a whole range of “dancing water” routines. Lamps set into the paved surface also make it possible to light up each jet of water.
The illuminated strip
The paved surface is intersected by a gently curving strip of light, which runs between the adjacent Bärenplatz square and the Parliament building – thus symbolising the link between Bern the municipality and Bern the capital city of the Swiss Confederation. The strip is lit up from below as soon as twilight falls.