Frankfurt am Main - Urban Entertainment Center


´╗┐Programs such as the Urban Entertainment Center's are best accommodated in large, continuous building plates, within a single enclosure. The consolidation of parts ensures internal connectivity of multiple facilities, rational structural design and construction processes, efficient HVAC systems and marketing strategies, etc. However, European cities such as Frankfurt will not easily assimilate such behemoths, because of the finer grain of the city's nineteenth-century fabric and pedestrian-scaled streets. At the site of the UEC, large-scale infrastructure and big-box facilities edge the traditional urban fabric. The proposal therefore creates a hybrid type: an architectural chameleon that can engage the texture of the city at one moment, while asserting its monumental status and modernity at another. An arcade-like retail and entertainment environment contains courtyards, atria, and public spaces of various types. This interior environment is accessible directly at sidewalk level from all adjacent streets, from the parking garage below, and from new sloping pedestrian passages within the project. In addition, these outdoor pedestrian passages extend the surrounding urban environment to a generous public place overlooking a new boulevard. In the superimposition of these two equally viable and accessible grounds, Frankfurt can thus have both a large building and a block fabric consistent with its urban morphology. Instead of camouflaging the building -- a standard urban strategy for integrating large structures -- we make the building's presence even larger, but shattered. As a collection of individual buildings, the UEC appears to have been chiseled out of a single colossal block, a shattered monolith whose original contour appears in the remaining fragments. We exacerbate the scale to achieve a powerful and seductive image, thereby creating a virtue out of the usual liability.

´╗┐We thus capitalize on the unusual size of the building to stage an extraordinary event in the city, a moment of public theatricality appropriate for an entertainment center. In dealing with the termination of the boulevard, the proposal recognizes and cultivates the architectural potentials of the site's disjunctions. The boulevard visually "crashes" into the UEC -- its intrusive violence figuratively translated into a unique public space and a series of pedestrian passages. The UEC has an iconic quality that lends instant intelligibility and recognition, where the building is essentially the logo of the center itself. The building is wrapped in a complex faceted and glazed double skin, which sets up transparencies, reflections, and refractions for the nighttime transfiguration of the architecture through artificial light.

Year: 1999
The City of Frankfurt
Frankfurt, Germany

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