Reference to the place - the genius loci

The competition design by Büro Henning Larsen already reinterpreted the character of the predecessor building, the former Chief Finance Office, and attempted to give qualitative expression to the new use at the historic financial location.

The competition design by Büro Henning Larsen already reinterpreted the character of the predecessor building, the former Oberfinanzdirektion, and attempted to give qualitative expression to the new use at the historic financial location. In particular, the colour scheme of the OFD was to be taken up again, which created a warm ambience with the earthy tones of the split clinker bricks used at the time. The starting point here was the dominant red tone of the historic façade, which was created by mixing the individual colours of brown, beige, grey, red and orange tones. The dynamic alternation of light and dark façade surfaces was intended to quote the varied play of the historical reference, which distributed the clinker brick colours in their respective pure tones, combined in larger partial areas, across the building cubature like a chessboard. In the design, Henning Larsen developed an economical solution from these ideas with dark red coloured Eternit panels, which were to be staggered storey by storey to maintain the dynamic expression.

Exceeding the objectives

Preserving the special character of the site, which MOW had already identified with the monument of the economic miracle during the successful site search, was decisive for the successful implementation of the project by the general planners from Frankfurt. Equipped with comprehensive knowledge from the competition supervision, the previous studies and coordination between the city and the heritage office, the experts from MOW set to work to turn the ambitious goals into reality. In addition to the local reference, the focus was naturally on the objective of optimal learning and working environments as well as the sustainability of the project. In all these areas, the objectives were exceeded through close cooperation with specialists. For example, sustainability was improved, the quality of stay was enhanced and the façade envisaged in the design was replaced by a more valuable special solution.

Gold becomes platinum

Thus, the sustainability of the project was strengthened by turning the targeted DGNB gold into a building certified with the highest possible platinum standard through intelligent technology and resource-saving use of materials.

More light

The quality of stay was considerably increased because the windows planned by the competition office could be enlarged by 20 cm by MOW in close consultation with specialists in building physics, which not only leads to better lighting and a better view, but also reinforces the intended verticality of the façade.

Perfect mixture

Finally, it was also possible to replace the façade of Eternit panels envisaged in the design with a higher-quality ceramic façade that really does justice to the genius loci. To achieve this within the set budget, the 8,200m² façade had to be rethought several times. In close consultation with the client and the colleagues from Henning Larsen, alternative materials and colours were explored, calculated and sampled in order to give the Frankfurt School a unique selling point among private universities that is also visible in the façade. After extensive use of 3D simulations and on-site sampling, it became clear that neither the initially envisaged Eternit panels nor modern glass fibre concretes would achieve the desired vibrancy. Finally, a promising material was found in the form of a cladding system from a Dutch manufacturer, which promised a richly detailed play of colours within standardised colour tones, both in its distant effect and in the close-up view.

Then it had to be seen whether a colour concept could be developed from the diverse colour palette that would be able to reproduce the desired effect - an intensive and lively red through nuances.  After sampling the possible colours in the Netherlands, a mock-up was built on site with a selected red-brown standard colour shade in order to test the material in context and on the basis of the local lighting conditions. It quickly became clear to all those gathered on site that the optimum solution could only lie in a mix with at least one additional colour shade specially mixed for the location, which numerous laboratory samples were produced in small batches for the mock-up for a second sampling. Here, the three shades of the new special colour "MOW-065" had to prove themselves on the mock-up set up in front of the OFD's presidential building. The MOW colour proved to be extremely lively here. In the context of the presidential building of the old OFD, the full potential of a colour specially produced for the FS became visible for the first time.

Optimising to the end

But that was not enough. Even more liveliness and a reference to the OFD in three truly individual colour tones were now on the agenda. A wish that seemed hardly realisable in view of the tight schedule. Committed to achieving the best together, they nevertheless courageously decided to make another attempt. As this had to be the final test and there was no time for further, later laboratory tests under the pressure of the completion deadline, the investigation of several mixing ratios for the special colours was fixed on site in parallel. The analysis of the remaining ceramic tiles of the previous building was the donor to choose the pigments from the possible ingredients of the Dutch ceramic specialists, from which the perfect colours were hoped for. A short time later, the first test tiles fired in the laboratory could be examined at an appointment in Cologne. From dozens of individual pieces measuring only 10 x 10 cm, three colours were now decided on, which were to be produced in small series and sampled at the mock-up. On 22 December, the FS decision-makers, led by Prof. Steffens, met with the architects from MOW and Henning Larsen at the construction site to view the final façade sample and the visualisations developed for it over mulled wine.  As an early Christmas present, the team was able to adopt the final colours that will characterise Frankfurt's cityscape on Adickesallee for decades from 2017.

Three colours, three sanctities

Each of the three chosen special colours MOW-065, MOW-127 and MOW-128 harmoniously varies the same pigments in different mixtures and is produced in three degrees of brightness each, whereby the numbers give an idea of how many laboratory tests were necessary to reach the goal. The fact that the new ceramic façade of the Frankfurt School is certified as a sustainable Cradle to Cradle building material and that the finely ground tiles are not only recyclable but also edible in principle underlines how rewarding the use of intelligent design with intelligent technologies can be.

Stephan Lücke