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ECB Headquarters in Frankfurt

Deconstructed Capital


Conceived at the same time that the euro was born, and built in Frankfurt as a concession to a Germany fearful of losing the Deutschemark, the headquarters of the European Central Bank has been inaugurated at the worst possible time. The discrediting of the European project and of the currency that is its main emblem, combined with the frustrating crisis of the last seven years and also the rise of political movements which are challenging the System, unsurprisingly resulted in barricades on the day of the building’s official opening – the barricades physically raised by the most extreme protesters, and those that surely many citizens mentally would have liked to erect on learning that the flashy construction with a floor area of 185,000 square meters had cost the soaring sum of 1,400 million euros, almost twice the amount budgeted, with a ratio of some 7,000 euros per square meters.

Tagged as ‘deconstructivist’ (a good adjective to describe the economy today) and consisting of a 185-meter-tall tower (in this case a phallic-financial symbol) and a plinth of emphatically cantilevering volumes, the building was in itself hard to present in these troubled times, but no one imagined that its author, Wolf D. Prix – co-founder, design principal, and CEO of Coop Himmelb(l)au – would help so little in making the pill easier to swallow. Interrogated by journalists last year, Prix said that his building suggested the play of short passes characterizing FC Barcelona under Pep Guardiola, and that “it looks just like Messi”: a boutade which at other times would have been embarrassing, but which today invites insurrection.

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