Bundesbank Central Office: a symbol of the Bank's stability culture
Standing 216 metres long and nearly 75 metres high, the Bundesbank's Central Office is visible far beyond its immediate surroundings in the north of Frankfurt am Main. For Executive Board member Johannes Beermann,
"the Bundesbank's main building radiates a strong sense of objectivity and functionality; for wide sections of the general public it symbolises a culture of stability in monetary policy".
The Bundesbank's striking main building, with its 13 floors, is now more than 40 years old. The foundation stone was laid in 1967, and the building was completed in 1972. The Cash Department building and a guest house were erected at the same time, followed a little later by the Money Museum and a number of more modern office facilities.
Suitable location hard to find
But in the early days, it was by no means certain that the Bundesbank would be sited between the Ginnheim and Bockenheim neighbourhoods in the north of Frankfurt am Main. When a lack of space forced the Bundesbank's predecessor, the Bank deutscher Länder, to seek a new location after the Second World War, a number of other potential locations, including some outside Frankfurt, were on the table.
The US occupying forces were inclined to keep the Bundesbank in Frankfurt am Main, where the Bank deutscher Länder had its main office on Taunusanlage, but the British doubted the city's credentials as a banking centre. What is more, in the early days of the Federal Republic, hopes that the divided country might soon be reunified explained why Germany was still hesitant over choosing the Bundesbank's location.
Space had for many years been at a steep premium in the Taunusanlage offices, but it was not until the Deutsche Bundesbank was established in 1957 that concrete plans for a new building in Frankfurt began to take shape. At that time, though, plans centred not around the Bundesbank's current home in the north of Frankfurt but a plot of land right next to the river Main. The Bank set about buying up all the land it was going to need until, at the last minute, the City of Frankfurt announced that it was planning to build a road straight through that part of the city, rendering that location impracticable, not least for security reasons.
The Bundesbank finally found a new site in the north of Frankfurt and held an architecture competition, which was won by architect Heinz Scheid and the architects' office ABB Apel, Beckert und Becker.
Functional and sober
In early 2015 the Bundesbank hosted an architectural symposium as part of a series of events entitled "Unloved modernism". Heinz Scheid said at that event that the emphasis placed on symmetry both inside and outside the building was one of the building's defining features. Wolfgang Voigt, Deputy Director of the German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt, used his speech to explain that the building's style differed quite significantly from that of other national central banks. Many other central banks designed their buildings, he noted, to resemble something akin to palaces, mostly boasting porticos or a large counter hall; Voigt cited the cathedral-like hall of the Argentinian central bank with its domed ceiling in Buenos Aires to illustrate his point. The architectural language used at the Bundesbank, on the other hand, was one that stood for a new beginning.
"The way I see it, the Bundesbank wanted nothing more to do with any kind of tradition, least of all with that of the Reichsbank," Mr Voigt remarked.
"Any notion of the architecture being used as a statement of power was avoided at all costs." In his eyes, the Bundesbank's Central Office ranks as one of Frankfurt's foremost post-war buildings, alongside St Paul's Church, which was rebuilt after the war, and the former offices of the Federal Court of Auditors.