When the ECB was founded in 1998, it started to look for a suitable site where it could build its own premises in Frankfurt am Main. In total, 35 sites were investigated. A feasibility study – carried out jointly with Frankfurt-based architects Jourdan & Müller in 1999 – concluded that the site of the Grossmarkthalle (Frankfurt’s former wholesale market hall) was eminently suitable for the construction of the ECB’s new premises and that the old market hall itself could be incorporated into the design and put to good use. The ECB and the City of Frankfurt of Main signed the purchase agreement for that site in the spring of 2002. In the same year, the ECB launched an international urban planning and architectural competition for the design of its new headquarters. This competition consisted of several phases. During the revision phase, the three prizewinners selected by the jury were given the opportunity to fine-tune their designs. In January 2005 the Governing Council of the ECB decided that COOP HIMMELB(L)AU’s revised design best met the ECB’s functional and technical requirements. This decision was followed by an optimisation phase and several planning phases.
In April 2008, shortly before the start of the preliminary construction works, the Grossmarkthalle featured in the international festival of lighting: Luminale. On 6 May 2008 the City of Frankfurt granted the ECB full building permission. The foundation stone was laid on 19 May 2010, marking the start of the main construction works. On 20 September 2012 a ceremony was held to celebrate the topping out of the high-rise and on 18 March 2015, after the relocation of staff in November 2014, the new premises were officially inaugurated.
On 18 March 2015 the ECB held a ceremony for the inauguration of its new premises, alongside the regular meetings of the Governing Council and General Council.
“This building is a symbol of the best of what Europe can achieve together,” said ECB President Mario Draghi. “Many people have worked tirelessly to make this building a reality”. He also pointed out that “it is a landmark for the city of Frankfurt. And it provides the ECB with an impressive new home to pursue its mandate.”
After the welcome address by the President, speeches were given by Tarek Al-Wazir, Deputy Minister President of the State of Hesse, and Peter Feldmann, Lord Mayor of the City of Frankfurt am Main. Members of the Executive Board, the Governing Council and the General Council of the ECB, and of the Supervisory Board of the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), as well as former ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet and former members of the Executive Board Jörg Asmussen, Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, Lucas Papademos and Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell, looked on as Mr Draghi cut the ribbon in the Grossmarkthalle.
The ceremony was also attended by Wolf Prix, CEO of Vienna-based architects COOP HIMMELB(L)AU, Salomon Korn, Head of the Jewish Community Frankfurt, Konrad Elsässer, representative of the Elsaesser family, Petra Roth, former Lord Mayor of the City of Frankfurt, Olaf Cunitz, Head of Urban Planning Department and Mayor of the City of Frankfurt, and Friedrich von Metzler, Honorary Citizen of the City of Frankfurt.
On 20 September 2012 the ECB held a topping out ceremony to celebrate the completion of the main structural works for its new premises.
After a welcome address by former Member of the Executive Board of the ECB Jörg Asmussen, speeches were given by Peter Feldmann, Lord Mayor of the City of Frankfurt am Main, and Klaus Pöllath, Member of the Board of Directors of Ed. Züblin AG, the company responsible for the main structural works. Members of the Executive Board, the Governing Council and the General Council of the ECB, placed the flags of the then 27 EU Member States and the flag of the European Union in the topping out wreath. The ceremony concluded with the raising of the topping out wreath and a traditional topping out toast by the construction foreman for the high-rise.
The laying of the foundation stone on 19 May 2010 marked the official start of the construction works for the ECB’s new premises.
The welcome address by Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the ECB at the time, was followed by good wishes from Petra Roth, former Lord Mayor of the City of Frankfurt, and Wolf D. Prix, CEO of COOP HIMMELB(L)AU, the firm of architects whose design had won the international urban planning and architectural competition. Together with the President, members of the Executive Board, the Governing Council and the General Council of the ECB, as well as the Lord Mayor and the architect, filled the foundation stone with a set of the building plans, newspapers from the then 27 EU Member States, sets of euro coins from the 16 countries of the euro area at the time, a set of euro banknotes and a coin from the City of Frankfurt. The foundation stone was then sealed and moved into the excavation pit where the office tower was to be built.
Luminale is an international festival of lighting that is held every two years in Frankfurt and the Rhine-Main region as part of the Light+Building trade fair.
In 2008, when Luminale was held for the fourth time, the ECB also took part. From dusk until midnight, the lighting artists Casa Magica from Tübingen (Friedrich Förster and Sabine Weissinger) illuminated the southern facade of the Grossmarkthalle.
Three motifs were beamed in rotation onto the building’s signature concrete grid facade: the first motif of fruit and vegetables recalled its former function as a wholesale market hall; the second focused on the present, with diggers, cranes and concrete mixers alluding to its conversion into the ECB’s future premises; and the third freely adapted the formal principles characterising banknotes, thus highlighting its future role as the ECB’s headquarters.
On the opening night, the ECB invited all interested parties to an information session in front of the hall on the Ruhrorter Werft, looking onto the illuminated Grossmarkthalle.