The Tall Office Building: Commerzbank, Ecologically Considered


After the towers of Hong Kong and Tokyo, the Commerzbank headquarters in Frankfurt is Foster’s third high rise building and, with 53 storeys and 300 metres, the tallest in Europe (Century rose to 20 storeys, and Hong Kong to 28, 35 and 41). In the office files there were also two unbuilt towers in the USA (the 1978 extension to New York’s Whitney and the 1982 headquarters for Humana in Louisville), the cancelled 1988 Holiday Inn in The Hague and the disappointing DS-2 building in London’s Canary Wharf, by then yet unbuilt; and there was indeed the visionary 1989 Millennium Tower. Winner of a 1991 competition, and finished in 1997, Commerzbank takes from Hong Kong peripheral cores, a central atrium and clustered office floors; but does away with the exposed skeleton and makes it a ‘green tower’ using naturally ventilated 4 storey high hanging gardens that spiral around the triangular plan, allowing every office generous views –a scheme more ecologically sophisticated than SOM’s 1982 Jeddah skyscraper, but lacking its visual sharpness, weakened by slick detailing, the conflict between the horizontal continuity of the curved plan and the vertical emphasis of the corner cores, and the picturesque massing of shafts and antennae that also hampered the Century Tower...[+]

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