The New ‘Euopean Central Bank’ for Frankfurt, Germany Designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au

The European Central Bank (ECB) has launched an international urban planning and architectural design competition for its new premises. The ECB will be constructing its new headquarters up until 2014 on the site of the Grossmarkthalle (former wholesale market hall) in Frankfurt. The building is based on the plans designed by the Viennese architecture office Coop Himmelb(l)au, which won the architectural design competition in 2004.

The site of the Grossmarkthalle, an area of 120,000 m² on the river in the eastern part of Frankfurt am Main which the ECB purchased from the City of Frankfurt in March 2002. The site will be developed to accommodate 2,500 workplaces, with office space and special areas covering a main usable area of approximately 100,000 m² plus all the necessary parking areas and technical facilities.

About the competition:

Architects from around the globe were invited to apply to the competition by 20 January 2003. Based on the criteria laid down in the Competition Notice, a Pre-Selection Committee, consisting of five ECB staff members and supported by architects on the international Jury, selected 80 architects (70 ‘established’ and 10 ‘emerging young’ architects) from some 300 applications received in response to the worldwide Call for Candidature. These architects were then asked to anonymously submit a design concept for the first phase of the competition (1st phase) by 7 July 2003. On 28-29 August the international Jury selected 12 candidates for the second phase of the competition (2nd phase).

The 12 candidates admitted to the second phase of the competition were then requested to present more detailed architectural design concepts by December 2003. The final Jury meeting for the second phase was held on 12-13 February 2004 and selected three prize winning design proposals:

1st prize: Coop Himmelb(l)au, Vienna, Austria

2nd prize: ASP Schweger Assoziierte, Berlin, Germany

3rd prize: 54f architekten / T. R. Hamzah & Yeang, Darmstadt, Germany / Selangor, Malaysia

All three prize winners were invited by the Governing Council of the European Central Bank to the project’s revision phase.

On 13 January the Governing Council decided on the final design of the ECB’s new premises. The Governing Council concluded that the revised design concept of Coop Himmelb(l)au (revision phase) best meets the functional and technical requirements specified by the ECB, and has features that reflect the ECB’s values and translate them into architectural language. At the same time, the Governing Council considered it necessary to launch an optimization phase to review the functional, spatial and technical requirements with the aim of minimizing costs and ensuring an optimal use of resources.

This Coop Himmelb(l)au’s work resulted in the following adaptations in relation to the optimized design:

  • In line with the requirements of the historic preservation authorities, the grid structure of the existing concrete facade has been maintained, and the skyscraper and the entrance building connecting the Grossmarkthalle to the skyscraper have been moved to the west, over the part of the building which was rebuilt after the Second World War.
  • Several of the envisaged functions of the Grossmarkthalle (e.g. conference, kitchen and restaurant areas) have been reorganized on the basis of historic preservation and space requirements, in particular with regard to the conservation of the concrete grid facade.
  • The facade of the skyscraper has been further improved with state-of-the-art solar protection, thus rendering it highly energy-efficient and enabling the use of a more conventional cooling system.
  • The landscape design of the site has been redefined and further developed, particularly with regard to the integration of the ECB’s security requirements into the modulated landscape.
  • Finally, the top of the skyscraper has been changed in shape. The new slanted roof improves the overall shape and clarity of the building in its urban context and is more energy-efficient.

The design of the winning project:

The distinctive double tower of the new European Central Bank (ECB) premises will complement the skyline of Frankfurt am Main. By incorporating and converting the Grossmarkthalle, a truly unique ensemble will be created. See Building description for a more detailed overview of the new premises.

Vision

The employees of the European Central Bank (ECB) are currently based at three different sites in Frankfurt am Main. The new construction will bring them all together on one site.

Three main elements

The ECB’s new premises comprise three main elements: the Großmarkthalle itself complete with new internal structures; a high-rise building consisting of two office towers joined by an atrium; and the entrance building), which visually links the Grossmarkthalle to the high-rise towers and provides a clearly identifiable main entrance from the north.

Urban context

The office tower ensemble is the outcome of an urban design process which took the relation to “Frankfurt City” as its starting point. Adjusted to the main cityscape, the two office towers joined by the atrium appear to be in dialogue with Frankfurt’s major urban reference points (Alte Oper, Museumsufer, Banking District).

Functional and flexible

Functionality and sustainability were key elements of the competition brief and in the jury’s decision-making process, and continue to play an important role in the planning of the new premises. The structural and spatial design of the new premises will create a working environment that meets various functional requirements and facilitates open communication, thus promoting teamwork and interaction at every level. At the same time, the degree of flexibility in the structural and spatial design is such that changing requirements can be adapted to with little effort.

Glass facade of the high-rise

The new premises of the European Central Bank (ECB) consist of glass, clinker and metal facades.
Renovation of the facades of the Grossmarkthalle

The former Grossmarkthalle is characterized by concrete grid and clinker facades, while the double office tower and the entrance building with their glass and metal facades are both clearly identifiable as new. New steel windows made of narrow steel sections similar to the existing sections will be fitted into the facades of the Grossmarkthalle.

The double tower is designed as a monolithic glass structure, with the two towers being joined together by a transparent atrium. The energy-efficient “shield hybrid facade” of the office towers, which consists of three layers, offers all the energy-related advantages of a conventional double-glazed facade, while allowing for the direct natural ventilation of the rooms by means of vertical, floor-to-ceiling ventilation louvres.

For further information about the winning projects and the competition in general please visit: www.ecb.int or www.new-ecb-premises.com.

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