Upon a recommendation by the European Court of Auditors to all European institutions that it is much more economical in the long term to own premises rather than to rent office space, the ECB built its own premises on the site of the Grossmarkthalle (Frankfurt’s former wholesale market hall). The premises were designed by Vienna-based architects COOP HIMMELB(L)AU, who were awarded first prize in the international urban planning and design competition in 2004.
When the Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1992, it was decided that the ECB would be located in Frankfurt am Main. In 1998, when the ECB started operations in rented offices in the Eurotower, the search for a suitable site for its own premises in Frankfurt began. Having looked into 35 possible options across the city, the ECB finally decided to use the site of the Grossmarkthalle and incorporate the existing building into the design for its new headquarters.
A feasibility study had shown that this site was economically the most viable, that it was well connected in terms of infrastructure, that the spatial requirements could be met and that it was the optimal site for implementing the security measures required by a central bank. Furthermore, it offered sufficient space for further construction and extension.
The majority of staff members dealing with monetary policy are now working together under one roof in Frankfurt’s Ostend district. However, since the new premises were designed at a time when it was not foreseen that the ECB would assume responsibility for banking supervision in the euro area, the ECB decided in November 2013 to continue to rent the Eurotower to house its Banking Supervision staff. Staff providing shared services are located in both buildings.
The competition brief, final decision of the jury and subsequent planning phases focused on the functionality and sustainability of the new premises, and these key aspects continue to play an important role in the way they are used. The structural and spatial design of the new premises creates 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 design means that changing requirements can be adapted to with little effort.
The building ensemble was developed as part of an urban design process that took its alignment with Frankfurt’s city centre as the starting point. The result is a clearly visible urban landmark on the site of the Grossmarkthalle, with the office tower extending Frankfurt’s high-rise skyline to the east. Converting the city’s former wholesale market hall and incorporating it into the design made history part of the ECB, adding to the uniqueness of this landmark in Frankfurt’s Ostend.