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The Government  

Architectural history

At the end of the 19th century, public authorities and offices were scattered throughout many different buildings. Communication between the buildings wasted a lot of time. Because the country had experienced a strong development over the preceding decades, the number of civil servants grew accordingly. The government offices were bursting at the seams. There was an urgent need for action: A new public administration building had to be constructed for Liechtenstein – a shared home for Parliament, the Government, and all public offices. The new building would express the new self-confidence of the State, representing the hub of political life and public administration.

The Government petitioned Reigning Prince Johann II, who commissioned his architect in Vienna, Gustav von Neumann, to draft project plans for a Government Building. In July 1900, the building plans and the construction cost estimate were presented to the Members of Parliament. The project was well received, but the costs and location still had to be debated. Two sites were proposed: the Princely vineyard (Herrenwingert) at the northern end of Vaduz, and the quarter housing administrative offices near the church. After some deliberation, Parliament chose the second option.

Debate over the building plans

Princely architect Gustav von Neumann (1859-1928) had already created two representative buildings in Liechtenstein: the parish church in Schaan and the parish church in Ruggell. Before drawing up the building plans, he studied and photographed the construction site in the town of Vaduz in detail. He adapted the architecture of the Government Building to its many intended purposes. The Government Building was envisaged to include dignified state rooms – but also a prison. Shortly before construction began, however, the building commission demanded cost reductions that would require drastic changes to the plans.

The vaulted corridors were deemed superfluous, the office ceilings too high, and the staircase too luxurious.

Von Neumann staunchly defended his view that the State should invest in a Government Building that would also be suitable for future generations. According to von Neumann, he had based the building plans on district administration buildings in smaller towns – certainly not too distinguished a model for Liechtenstein's Government Building. If the building commission were to make drastic changes to the plans to cut costs, von Neumann would take no responsibility for the project.

Crucial support

The architect turned to the Reigning Prince, who quickly agreed to cover the additional costs – avoiding the changes demanded by the building commission and preventing any corrections that would have impacted the architecture. Two properties on the building site had to be acquired and demolished before construction of the Government Building could begin in summer 1903. The construction work lasted until the end of 1905, involving numerous businesses, suppliers, and workers. For many of the contracts, no domestic bids were submitted, given the high construction standards required – including the very first central heating and ventilation system in the country.

The façade of the Government Building – including its sculptural and stucco features – gave people plenty to talk about. The forecourt of the Government Building was asphalted – a striking novelty at the time.

Artistic elements

As already mentioned, the construction standards were very high for the time. The furnishings were carefully selected to meet the demands of a building representing the State. Special importance was attached to the artistic features of the building. The Tiroler Glasmalerei und Mosaik Anstalt in Innsbruck was commissioned to create the glass mosaics for the main façade. On the front of the Government Building, the coat of arms and the two allegorical figures of Justice and Administration drew attention to the building's public significance.

The coat-of-arms windows in the staircase were also crafted by the Tiroler Glasmalerei Anstalt. The windows are made of cathedral glazing in a hexagonal diamond shape.

The Reigning Prince commissioned and funded the artistic furnishings of the Parliament Chamber – today's Fürst-Johannes-Saal. Viennese artists created portraits and sculptures of Reigning Princes and coats of arms for the wall niches. A huge wrought-iron chandelier, made by k.u.k. Hof-, Bau- und Kunstschlosserei Valerian Gillar, Vienna, prominently adorned the ceiling of the chamber.

Considerable construction costs

The costs for the construction and furnishings of the Government Building amounted to 377,528 kronen. This was significantly higher than the annual national budget at the time. Reigning Prince Johann II contributed 100,000 kronen, and the Landschäftliche Sparkasse savings bank granted a loan of 260,000 kronen. The State's total income and expenditure amounted to just over 306,000 kronen in 1905 and about 240,000 kronen in 1906. Tax revenue in each of those two years amounted to just under 38,000 kronen. This comparison alone shows the great importance attached to the construction of the Government Building by the authorities at the time.

Manifold uses

The decision by the Liechtenstein Parliament and Government to construct the Government Building was courageous and far-sighted. For about 50 years, the building housed almost all the State authorities. In addition to the National Administration and the Government, this included Parliament and the Court. The Government Building's design was extremely generous. For many years, the Government Building even provided space to companies and other institutions. The Sparkasse (now the Liechtensteinische Landesbank) operated out of the Government Building until 1953. Bank in Liechtenstein (now LGT), founded in 1920, was also located in the building until 1933. The Government Building even housed the National Police and the country's only prison until 1991.

Renovation of the Government Building

The brochure below provides detailed information on the renovation of the Government Building and the redesign of the Government Quarter in the early 1990s.

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