Banks. Theaters. Hangars: Iconic Postwar Modernist Buildings at the German Architecture Museum

The Deutsche Bank Towers are among the most well known examples of architecture in the Federal Republic of Germany. The building complex, which opened in 1984, became a Frankfurt landmark. But its architects are known only to insiders, although the ABB office has realized some forty projects in Frankfurt alone, including the Städtische Bühnen (the municipal stages), the Deutsche Bundesbank, the Hotel Intercontinental, and the Dresdner Bank skyscraper. An exhibition at the German Architecture Museum (DAM) in Frankfurt is now showing how much ABB has shaped the cityscape of the metropolis on the Main River with the understated elegance of its designs.

The exhibition focuses on the early designs of the office, which was founded in 1961 by Otto Apel and Hannsgeorg Beckert. DAM has part of the ABB archive at its disposal, including extensive material on the different projects. In a congenial way, pictures taken by Ulfert Becker document almost the office’s entire work up until the early 1970s. His black-and-white photographs show the clearly arranged buildings at their very best. He documents the specific aesthetics of these modernist designs, which stand for openness and a democratic awakening. Unlike usual architectural photography, Beckert also often shows people who use the edifices—festively dressed theater visitors or guests at the Interconti sitting in Eames chairs. There is a hint of Mad Men in the air; the era of the so-called German economic miracle also had a glamorous side.

Some of the buildings presented in the exhibition have captured public interest again in recent years. The future of the Städtische Bühnen is uncertain; there is talk of refurbishment or even demolition and reconstruction. While the former Central Office of Mechanical Documentation (ZMD) in Niederrad was placed under a conservation order in 2016, the IBM data center in the area round the central railway station was torn down in the same year. The exhibition shows the formidable quality of these buildings, and, at a time when modernist concrete architecture from the 1960s and 70s is finding more and more fans, comes just at the right time.
A.D.

Banks. Theaters. Hangars
Frankfurt Projects by Otto Apel/ABB Architects

Until May 14, 2017
German Architecture Museum (DAM), Frankfurt am Main