By reinterpreting the traditional landscaping theory of the “English garden”, the Swiss company Vogt Landscape Architects developed a sophisticated design for the area around the new ECB premises. The river Main was a major inspiration for the design of a parkland area, which is planted with more than 700 trees of 25 different types. Image gallery
The defining principle of the “English garden” was that it should be in harmony with the surrounding landscape and present an idealised view of nature, loosely modelled on the typical English countryside. Many of London’s parks or the estates of English stately homes, or even the Englischer Garten in Munich, follow this principle. What is typical about this style is how landscape architects incorporated the movement of people and their constantly shifting viewpoints into their designs. It was this concept that Vogt Landscape Architects had in mind when creating the landscape design for the ECB’s new premises.
To start with, landscape architects analysed the site in great detail to gain a comprehensive understanding of its attributes. For them, the most obvious was its proximity to the Osthafen, directly on the banks of the river Main. They therefore chose to make water a central, distinguishing element of the landscape design.
With regard to the softscape, the basic idea was that of abstracting the typical terrain of natural flood plains: the particular topography of a river landscape with its clefts and plateaus, backwaters, undercuts and slopes is abstracted to geometric forms. The result is a parkland area consisting of a stylised river landscape that follows the contours of the river Main and incorporates the market hall, high-rise and other essential facilities, while retaining all the qualities of a park. The vegetation both enhances and questions the idea of a river landscape with a combination of typical river plant life and exotic plants that appear strange in such a habitat. Most of the trees are deciduous, enabling people to experience the different seasons. Meadows with widely spaced trees are interspersed with dense woods, natural hedges, typical riverbank formations and rows of trees that reiterate the form of the river valleys.
Turning to the hardscape, certain areas are paved with cobblestones, which gradually fade into the asphalt or grass areas instead of forming sharp edges. Some of the stones date back to when the Grossmarkthalle still housed Frankfurt’s wholesale market. In addition, some of the contoured river valleys are filled with the kinds of stones typically found in such areas.
In November 2012 the first of the Ginkgo trees were planted, marking the start of the implementation of the landscape design. The landscape architects have created a park that appears to have grown naturally, although everything of course was carefully planned and thought through. This also applies for the necessary security features, which are incorporated into the landscape as walls and fences, marking the border of the site. They are embedded in layers in the park so that, insofar as is possible, the green space is perceived neither from the outside nor from the inside as an enclosed site. The external wall is made out of materials that reflect the consistency of earth so that it looks like a continuation of the park. The fence, which partly follows the undulation of the landscape, is a palisade-like metal structure, with the gaps between the individual vertical elements varying between a predefined minimum and maximum width.
Together with other parks in the surrounding area – such as the GrünGürtel (Frankfurt’s green belt), the Mainuferpark (an area of parkland along the banks of the river Main), the nearby Hafenpark (a new park based on the theme of “sport and movement”) and the Ostpark (the park in Frankfurt’s Ostend district) – the landscape around the new ECB premises contributes to the creation of a “green lung” for the city of Frankfurt.