The building designed by Hans Poelzig only served its original purpose as the central office of I. G. Farbenindustrie AG for some fifteen years. Emerging unscathed from World War II, the modern and monumental structure was used as American military headquarters for fifty years after 1945. Renamed the Poelzig Building after ist architect, it has been a part of the Westend campus of Frankfurt’s Johann Wolfgang Goethe University since 2001. Despite the renovation work carried out between 1998 and 2001, the building has largely preserved its original appearance.
Formed in 1925 from a merger of several German dye and chemical businesses, I. G. Farben was at the time the fourth largest company in the world. Prior to its construction, the firm acquired property measuring 140,000 square meters in Frankfurt’s present-day Westend District and held an architectural competition, which was won by Hans Poelzig in August 1928. While the architect met the brief of a “symbol, in iron and stone, of German commercial and scientific manpower,” he was also able to combine tradition and modernism in his signature style. The building’s steelframe structure with brick infill is concealed behind the façade of the 250-meter-long and 35-meter-high main building, clad in Cannstatt travertine.
Despite the building’s enormous volume of 280,000 cubic meters, the advanced construction method permitted the work to be completed in only two years. The interior fittings were designed by Hans Poelzig’s second wife Marlene Moeschke-Poelzig. The outdoor terraces with reflecting pool were planned by Hans Poelzig in collaboration with the director of Frankfurt’s horticultural office Max Bromme, the gardener Karl Foerster, and artists belonging to the Bornimer circle.
With its six wings connected by a slightly curved central corridor as well as the story height that decreases from the bottom up (from 4.6 to 4.2 meters), the main building hides its true size from view to some extent. The continuous band of windows lends the building an elegance that is anything but self-evident in a structure of this size while simultaneously ensuring natural lighting in all the rooms. In this regard as well, Hans Poelzig proved in Frankfurt once again that he was a master of modern large-scale architecture.
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AddressJohann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
60323 Frankfurt am Main
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