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IG Farben Building

Frankfurt, Germany
1 of 3
From the Frankfurt Military Post (1959/60)

The IG Farben Building or Poelzig Building, now the home of the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe University, was built from 1928 to 1930 as the corporate headquarters of the IG Farben conglomerate in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. At the time, IG Farben was the world's fourth largest company and its largest chemical company. The complex was designed by Hans Poelzig in in the New Objectivity style. The ensemble was the largest office building in Europe and remained so until the 1950s.

References and styleDespite its mammoth size the IG Farben Building's six square wings retain a modern, spare elegance, despite its mammoth size. The building consists of six wings, connected by a gently curved, central corridor. This arrangement provides all of the offices with sufficient natural light and ventilation. This design approach for large complexes offers an alternative to the "hollow rectangle" schemes of the time, with their typical inner courtyards. The prototype of this form is the General Motors Building in Detroit (1919-23) by Albert Kahn. The building presents a very large and weighty facade to the front; however, this effect is reduced by the concave form.

ArchitectureThe 250-metre long and 35-metre tall building has nine floors, but the height of the ground floor varies (4.6-4.2 m). This variation is reflected in the roof line which looks taller at the wings than the spine. The volume of the building is 280,000 m3, constructed from 4,600 tonnes of steel frame with brick infill and floors constructed of hollow blocks to provide over 55740 m2 of usable office space".The facade is clad with 33,000 m2 Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt Travertine marble, which the windows punctuate in bands. Only at the corners are the glazed strips interrupted for emphasis. The top storey is lit from skylights rather than banded glazing and has a very low ceiling height. It forms a clear building conclusion.

The main entrance is at the axial centre of the building, comprising a temple-like portico standing in front of the doors-a relatively common motif of administration buildings of the time. The entrance arrangement is regarded by some people as slightly pompous: the entrance and lift doors are of bronze, and the ceiling and walls of the porch are clad in bronze plate and copper friezes. Well-known and popular with the students are the paternoster lifts that serve the nine floors. After the recent restoration, the university has pledged to preserve them.

The inner lobby has two curved staircases with a sheet aluminum treatment, and marble walls with a zigzag pattern. The axial centre at the rear of the building has a round glazed facade; here, the view of the buildings at the rear of the site (the "casino") is maximised by the curved walls that afford vistas to the subsidiary buildings 100 m distant, separated from the main building by parkland and a pool. Behind the rotunda is an oblong pool with a Nymph sculpture at the water's edge created by Fritz Klimsch entitled "Am Wasser". Behind it stands a flat building on a hill with a terrace-the casino of IG Farben, which now houses a refectory and lecture-rooms.

HistoryDuring its tenure by IG Farben research projects were conducted in the building relating to the development of synthetic oil and rubber, and the production administration of magnesium, lubricating oil, explosives, methanol, and Zyklon B, the lethal gas used in concentration camps. A plaque at the building's entrance commemorates the slave labour victims of the IG Farben factory at Auschwitz III and all those murdered by Zyklon B.

After WWII, the IG Farben Building served as the headquarters for the Supreme Allied Command and from 1949-1952 the High Commissioner for Germany (HICOG). It became the principal location for implementing the Marshall Plan, which largely financed the post-war reconstruction of Europe. Later, the building served as the headquarters for the US Army's V Corps and the Northern Area Command (NACOM).

Current stateIn 1995, the US Army returned control of the IG Farben Building to the German government. It was purchased on behalf of the University of Frankfurt by the state of Hesse, which committed EUR25 million to the restoration. In recognition of the original architect, the University renamed the main building the Poelzig Building (Poelzig-Bau) and its ancillary buildings and surroundings the Poelzig Complex (Poelzig Ensemble). The restoration work started in March 1998, and the formal reopening as the Poelzig-Bau was celebrated on October 26, 2001.

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krazin, November 17th, 2011
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