We’ve all heard the refrain: The greenest buildings are the ones that
already exist. But what if a building is so hideous, so bland, so
utterly devoid of beauty that, green or not, it’s an affront to the
very conceit of architecture?
Deutsche Bank‘s Frankfurt
headquarters are just such a building. Actually, a pair of buildings,
two 509-foot-tall towers of gorgonian ugly. It isn’t that they’re too
stocky or too shiny or too awkward, though they are all of these
things. No, they’re a
triumph of new over old, their glassy tubes having risen in 1983 on the
site of a gorgeous, ill-fated 19th-century palace. The shape, an
abstract take on Deutsche Bank’s logo,
dispatches a message of raw self-absorption, and the mirror facade
commemorates vanity in the age of Gordon Gekko. They’re a monument to the excesses of a
supposedly bygone era.
Except now they’re green. This fall, Deutsche Bank will unveil its grand marketing offensive
retrofit, complete with a new energy-efficient facade;
smart elevators; and windows that actually open, which is rare in a
skyscraper and pretty cool for employees. The efforts will slash energy
consumption in half, and by 2013, the bank claims it’ll be carbon
neutral, though the specifics remain unclear.
For the time
being, the bank has covered all its PR bases. Famous architect (Mario
Bellini): check. Local eco-cred (German Sustainable Building Council
cert): check. The bank gets to boast that
it’s on track to being the world’s first LEED Platinum renovated
Is that really something to write home about?
Turns out, it would’ve been less expensive to build anew. Much less expensive,
according to project manager Nils Noack. Rejiggering the old mechanical
systems isn’t cheap, nor is ripping off the old facade and replacing it with highly insulated, triple-paned glass.
Other banks have
used green building to rebrand, occasionally to unremarkable ends,
but hey, at least they tried something new. Deutsche Bank will tell you
that it likes the look of its headquarters, thank you very much.
They’re “iconic.” (And Gekkoian.)