Architecturally, Frankfurt has recently been known for its commercial architecture including the Commerszbank Tower by Foster & Partners, the Headquarters of the dz Bank at Westendstraße, designed by KPF and winner of the 1995 “Best Building of the Year” award by the American Chamber of Architects in the multifunctional skyscraper category, and the European Central Bank’s new building by Coop Himmelb(l)au which combined new towers with refurbishment of the early 20th century Wholesale Market Hall. Frankfurt has the tallest buildings in Germany and, once (if ever) the UK leaves the EU, will have the tallest buildings in the EU.
Less known are historic buildings in the old town including the Römerberg (town hall) the Dom (cathedral), the old St Nicholas Church and St Paul’s Church. This year’s Christmas Market in the Romerberg is set against the backdrop of new buildings which look many centuries old, but look at the precision and crispness of the details and in the connections downwards into the Metro and the car park underneath. Tragically, Frankfurt lost much of the old buildings in the Old Town in a bombing raid during the 2nd World War, which were later replaced with a variety of modernist buildings. Many of these have now been swept away and the Old Town has been transformed with new buildings and alleys which have accurate historic details copied from those that were lost, linked to Meurer Generalplaner’s contemporary Stadthaus am Markt with its stone-clad gables respecting the adjacent cathedral. While the recreation of the facades is exemplary, there are weaknesses in the designs of the service connections between buildings at the rear and the cost of construction has been substantially more than a commercial residential development because, to the credit of the developers, the historic detailing is authentic and of high quality, probably costing far more than the original buildings which have been lost.
An interesting development, which is obviously designed to last for many centuries, while modern buildings might come and go. The question, perhaps accentuated with the Christmas Markets giving a fairy-tale atmosphere to the Old Town, is that, unless you are a knowledgeable visitor, is whether there is a blurring of what is new and what is old, which reduces the integrity of the old buildings. Does the new Old Town create a false fairy-tale world or has it created a new quarter to the city with a sympathetic environment for people to live in and for tourists to visit?
Only time will tell.