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Introductory statement on the winning design chosen in the international urban planning and architectural design competition for the new ECB premises

Lucas Papademos, Vice President of the ECB, Press briefing at the Eurotower, Frankfurt am Main, 20 January 2005

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Governing Council’s decision on the winning design concluded the international urban planning and architectural design competition for the ECB’s new premises. This means that a major step towards building a new, permanent home for the ECB here in Frankfurt has been completed. Over the past three years, we have made considerable efforts in preparing this competition and seeing it through to its successful conclusion last week. This process has involved not only our own experts, but also external consultants. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of them for the quality of their work and their genuine commitment to this project. We also very much appreciated the good working relations with the City of Frankfurt authorities, which were of great assistance, and we look forward to continuing this excellent cooperation.

We would also like to thank again all the architects who took part in the competition and submitted such a great variety of design proposals. We are especially grateful to the three prize-winning architectural offices which participated in the revision phase of the competition. Over the past 11 months, they have gone into substantial depth to elaborate the details of their design proposals. The high quality and professionalism of the work done in the revision phase was very much appreciated by the Governing Council.

The Governing Council’s decision on the design of the ECB’s premises was reached after extensive discussion and careful evaluation of the prize-winning designs. As a public institution, we are committed to performing our tasks effectively and to using our financial resources prudently. Therefore, it was essential to have a thorough and comprehensive assessment – even if that prolonged the process somewhat – so as to make the right decision on a matter of such symbolic and financial importance.

Let me now explain briefly the main reasons why the Governing Council chose COOP HIMMELB(L)AU’s design. I am delighted that the architect, Prof. Wolf Prix, and his colleagues, Mr Dreibholz and Mr Halm, have joined us for this press briefing today.

The design chosen

The Governing Council judged the revised design concept of COOP HIMMELB(L)AU not only to be superior from an overall aesthetic and urban planning perspective, but also to be the one that best met the functional and technical requirements specified by the ECB. It was felt that this expressive, dynamic and appealing design would serve as a unique landmark, and result in the ECB’s new premises having a strong identity. In the Governing Council’s view, this design concept had features that reflected the ECB’s values – in particular, unity and transparency – and translated them into architectural language. Furthermore, the way in which the three elements of the design – the high-rise building of a twisted shape, the “groundscraper” and the Grossmarkthalle – formed a harmonious and well-proportioned ensemble was assessed very positively. We also considered that the integration of the Grossmarkthalle into this ensemble was addressed in an excellent way, while at the same time respecting the fundamental appearance of this historic building.

The design concept also met, in principle, the ECB’s functional and spatial requirements. The Governing Council appreciated especially the good connection of the different functional areas and the excellent workplace quality, guaranteeing natural light for all members of staff. Using the atrium as a large communicative zone within the two tower buildings was also welcomed. The Governing Council noted that all requirements for the energy concept had basically been fulfilled and that the design complied with the relevant regulations in the fields of building and environmental law.

Next steps

So where do we go from here? The Governing Council decided that the next step would be an “optimisation” phase in which the selected architect would again review his design on the basis of further guidance from the ECB. We will reassess the ECB’s functional and spatial requirements and, on that basis, seek to further optimise the design with the aim of reducing costs.

With regard to the cost, the estimates available at present, taking into account the optimisation potential, suggest that the construction costs will be about €500 million. The total investment costs, however, will be higher, since they include additional elements, such as the cost of purchasing the Grossmarkthalle site, planning fees and other infrastructural costs. Some of these additional cost items are related to the construction costs, while others depend on further deliberation and specification. More precise information on the cost aspects of the project will be provided at the end of the detailed planning phase.

I should like to emphasise that we will continue to work closely with the City of Frankfurt authorities in the coming phases of the project, especially in view of the urban development plan that will be adopted by Frankfurt’s City Council.

I am delighted that the Governing Council’s decision has been very well received; not only by representatives of the City of Frankfurt, but also by the local and international media.

Let me conclude by stressing that the Governing Council was very pleased indeed with the way the competition ran, with the quality of the designs and with the outcome of the competition. Of course, more challenges and many further decisions lie ahead. The successful completion of the competition is, however, an important milestone on the way towards building a new home for our institution. I am convinced that the winning design chosen by the Governing Council will become not only a Frankfurt landmark, but also a symbol of a united Europe and its single currency, the euro.

I would now like to invite Prof. Prix to present his design proposal.

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