Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

European Central Bank, Frankfurt
Featured July 2017
European Central Bank was recognized as a "Best Tall Building Europe" Finalist in the 2016 CTBUH Awards Program.
Other Featured Tall Buildings
“This tower sculpturally defies the monolithic block outcome. Confident external crafting of form has united the pragmatic program of uses with wonderful, soaring public atrium spaces.”
Karl Fender, Jury Chair, Fender Katsalidis

Completion Date: 2014

184 m (603 ft)




106,000 sq m (1,140.975 sq ft)

Primary Function:



European Central Bank
COOP HIMMELB(L)AU Wolf D. Prix & Partner (design); Albert Speer & Partner (architect of record)
Structural Engineers:

Bollinger + Grohmann
MEP Engineers:

Arup (design); Canzler-Ingenieure GmbH; Ebert-Ingenieure
(engineer of record)
Project Manager:

Drees & Sommer Advanced Building
Main Contractor:
Lindner Group; Spannverbund;  Ed. Züblin AG
Other Consultants:
Ebert-Ingenieure (Acoustics); Arup (Energy Concept); Institut für Fassadentechnik; Seele; Permasteelisa Group (Façade); HHP Süd Beratende Ingenieure GmbH (Fire); ARGE Katzenbach; CDM Consult GmbH (Geotechnical); Vogt Landschaft GmbH (landscape); Jappsen Ingenieure GmbH (Vertical Transportation); unit-design gmbH (Way Finding); Wacker Ingenieure (Wind)

The European Central Bank headquarters masterfully assembles a split high-rise atop a horizontally oriented low-rise heritage structure. The combination of atria created by the placement of the two glass high-rise volumes and the expansive interiors of the heritage addition facilitate a commendable variety of communal activities found within the structure. The resulting “city-within-a-city” outcome greatly increases the building’s overall functionality while providing for the needs of its occupants in a manner that is easily accessible and inviting.
The European Central Bank (ECB) merges a new high-rise tower with a large horizontal heritage building – the Grossmarkthalle – to create an original structure that combines the best qualities of both to form a symbiotic whole. Located in Frankfurt’s Ostend district east of the downtown core, the tower evokes a commanding presence in its immediate surroundings. Owing to its clear orientation toward important urban perspectives, the ensemble enters into a dialogue with several important urban reference points in Frankfurt: the Alte Oper (opera house), the Museumsufer (museum district), and the financial district.

The defining feature of the tower is its large central atria, which are formed through the sculptural fusion of two distinct tower volumes. This complex geometry was derived by vertically dividing a monolithic block through a hyperboloid cut, wedging the two volumes apart, and twisting them around to create the interstitial atria space. The tower interacts with the landmarked 1928 Grossmarkthalle and includes numerous public and semi-private spaces to realize a vertical “city-within-a-city,” a design goal that was identified early in its conceptualization. 
Interior view of high-level atrium
Connecting and transitioning levels between the two tower volumes divide the main atrium space horizontally into three separate atria, breaking down the public space into a more manageable scale of 45–60 meters (148–197 feet) in height.  Within each atrium, interchange platforms and pedestrian bridges recall urban streets and squares, while hanging gardens regulate interior temperature to create a pleasant climate, inviting communal activity.
Interior views of the renovated Grossmarkthalle

The Grossmarkthalle, a former wholesale market from the 1920s, is used as an “urban foyer.” The conference and visitor’s center, library, and employee cafeteria are placed diagonally in the spacious interior of the hall as independent building structures, much like individual buildings in a larger city. Large glazed walls and an expansive skylight ensure that this communal space receives plenty of light throughout the year.

The main tower and its lobby component bisect the Grossmarkthalle at a roughly 45-degree angle, offset to the west from the center of the structure. A floating entrance building penetrates the hall structure from the outside, connecting it to the tower through an aesthetic and functional link. The main lobby and additional conference and lecture rooms are located within this space. A glass walkway between the high-rise and the market formally ties the two structures together, completing the ensemble. 
Typical section

The ECB uses several sustainable strategies to improve energy efficiency. Most notably, geothermal loops are incorporated into the pile foundations of the high-rise, which descend about 30 meters (98 feet) into the ground, reaching Frankfurt’s bedrock. These loops can be connected to a water circuit and heating pumps in order to extract heat from the ground in the winter or cool temperature in the summer. Additionally, waste heat generated by an on-site computer server center is fed back into the tower’s heating system to warm office spaces.

Several “standard” sustainable features are also incorporated, such as a triple-glazed façade, natural office ventilation, and sun shading screens. When combined with Frankfurt’s already efficient energy grid, the result is an office building that improves energy performance by 30 percent over Germany’s energy-saving directive.

View of the tower’s base showing its integration with the Grossmarkthalle
Related Links
CTBUH Skyscraper Center Profile:
European Central Bank

European Central Bank was recognized as a "Best Tall Building Europe" Finalist in the 2016 CTBUH Awards Program.

2016 CTBUH Awards Book