ECB Premises – Head Office of the European Central Bank, Frankfurt, Germany

Client: Europäische Zentralbank
Architecture: Coop Himmelb(l)au
Period: 2005 – 2013
Surface area: 120 000m2

The new headquarters of the European Central Bank is located on the site of the former wholesale market hall in the East End of Frankfurt. The distinctive feature for this area is firstly the listed building and the other historic buildings within the vicinity as visible reminders of the history of the place and secondly its location near the Osthafen directly on the banks of the River Main.  

The river, as the formative landscape element, becomes a design topic for the external facilities. The basic idea is that of abstracting the typical terrain of natural flood plains: The particular topography of an alluvial landscape with its clefts and plateaus, backwaters, undercuts and slopes is abstracted to basic geometric forms. A park is thus created consisting of a stylized alluvial landscape, which follows in its direction the flow of the River Main whilst creating various independent partial zones within the dynamic of the moving terrain. The continuous landscape design incorporates the existing wholesale market hall, the new double office tower as well as the essential functional equipment and structures, without losing its quality as a park and its landscape identity. The vegetation both strengthens and questions the idea of an alluvial landscape with a combination of traditional alluvial species and exotic plants which appear strange in this habitat. Meadows with widely spaced trees interchange with dense woods, natural hedges, typical formations of river banks and rows of trees, which reiterate the form of the river valleys. The topography repeatedly permits views of the diverse zones and of the river.  

The stringent security procedures incorporate walls and fences. These are embedded in layers in the park so that the green space is neither from the outside nor from the inside perceived as the hermetically sealed site it actually is, but primarily as an open park landscape: The external wall, which must prevent penetration by vehicles,  appears through its material design like a naturally steep river bank and thus like an element of the park, whilst the security fence is located further back and is embedded in the vegetation.  

Inspired by the alluvial landscape but with clear geometric lines and shapes, the park becomes a link between the buildings on the site and the river.