European Central Bank
By Ulf Meyer
In the middle of the European monetary crisis the new Headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au are getting ready for staff to move in.
Germany may be the biggest country in the European Union, but so far it has been devoid of any major EU-institutions, whose bulk is headquartered in France, Belgium and Luxembourg. The European Central Bank (ECB) is one notable exception.
It may be the one EU-body that has recieved the most public and media attention recently - albeit for all the wrong reasons. The eye of the storm during the Eurozone debt crisis, that has been affecting the countries of the Eurozone since early 2009, was the silver "Euro-Tower" designed by Richard Heil and built between 1971 and 1977 in Frankfurt's skyscraping banking district, the most visible and impressive on the continent.
These days, the thousands of members of staff of the ECB move to their new offices in a brand new double-tower in the less favourable East end of Frankfurt: The new Super-Tower, seat of the mighty currency watchdog of the World's second-most popular currency, was designed by the Austrian deconstructivist architects of Coop Himmelb(l)au. This decision was the result of an invited competition in 2005. Nine years later, the 185 meter tall, double-towers overlook Frankfurt's East district.
At the site of the former Grossmarkthalle (a beautiful brick-clad wholesale market hall for fruits and vegetables) the bank powerfully displays its polygonal shapes. The striking profile is visible from all points in Frankfurt's city, as well as from the nearby river Main. The imposing horizontal Grossmarkthalle unites with the vertical profile of the towers. Soon after the ECB purchased the site from the City of Frankfurt in 2002, controversy erupted about the planned partial demolition of the market hall, a 1928 masterpiece by architect Martin Elsaesser's. In responce the design was altered that now features a new bar-shaped building cutting through the Grossmarkthalle. The two tall, glass-clad towers are connected by an inner atrium known as the "vertical city". It is the first time that Coop Himmelb(l)au has designed a tall building, since all earlier projects were low buildings.
You will find an extensive list of Coop's other buildings here.
The Grossmarkthalle serves as the ECB's main entrance, restaurant and public area and is linked to the office towers by the gigantic conference centre. Almost 2,500 workplaces occupy the 100,000 square meters of floor space in the new building - the ECB really has become a giant bureaucratic monster. The cost of the new buildings, at around 1,3 billion Euros are more then twice as high as planned and shows that even mighty banks may sometimes find it difficult to act in an economically sensitive way.
Facts about European Central Bank
Design Principal/CEO: Wolf D. Prix
Project Partner: Frank Stepper
Local Partner: AS&P Albert Speer & Partner GmbH, Frankfurt, Architektur Consult ZT GmbH
B+G Ingenieure, Bollinger und Grohmann GmbH, Frankfurt/M., Germany
Climate Design: Arup GmbH
Plumbing & HVAC Ebert-Ingenieure München GbR
Lightning Design: Bartenbach LichtLabor GmbH
Site Infrastructure: Dorsch Consult Verkehr und Infrastruktur GmbH
Landscape Planning: Vogt Landschaftsplaner GmbH
Last updated: March 17, 2014