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Architectural design competition

In 2002 the European Central Bank (ECB) launched an international urban planning and architectural design competition for its new premises. The purpose of the competition was to identify the best design concepts for the ECB’s future home and to select an architect to carry out the detailed planning work for the new premises and, if possible, to implement the project.

The new premises were to be built on the site of the Grossmarkthalle (Frankfurt’s former wholesale market hall), an area of 120,000 m2 next to the river in the eastern district of Frankfurt am Main. The ECB purchased the site from the City of Frankfurt in March 2002, with the intention of building premises that not only met its functional requirements, but also made innovative use of the old market hall, which was an integral part of site. Design concepts for the new premises were to be based on a usable area of approximately 100,000 m2, accommodating 2,500 workplaces, special facilities, parking spaces and technical areas.

The competition consisted of several phases. Initially, it attracted applications from more than 300 architects in 31 countries and four continents. After a preselection phase, 80 architects and planners were provided with the competition documents and guidelines, and asked to anonymously submit a design concept for the first phase of the competition. The designs submitted were evaluated by an international jury, which drew up a shortlist of 12 candidates for the second phase of the competition.

At its final meeting, the jury chose three winning designs:

1st prize: Coop Himmelb(l)au, Vienna, Austria 2nd prize: ASP Schweger Assoziierte, Berlin, Germany 3rd prize: 54f architekten/T. R. Hamzah & Yeang, Darmstadt, Germany/Selangor, Malaysia
Coop Himmelblau ASP Schweger Assoziierte 54f architekten

All three prizewinners were invited by the Governing Council of the ECB to take part in a revision phase, in which they had the opportunity to fine-tune their designs. On 13 January 2005 the Governing Council concluded that the revised design concept of Coop Himmelb(l)au best met the ECB’s functional and technical requirements, and had features that reflected the ECB’s values and translated them into architectural language. At the same time, the Governing Council decided to launch an optimisation phase to review the functional, spatial and technical requirements, in order to minimise costs and ensure the optimal use of resources.

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