We’ve all heard the refrain: The greenest buildings are the ones thatalready exist. But what if a building is so hideous, so bland, soutterly devoid of beauty that, green or not, it’s an affront to thevery conceit of architecture?
Deutsche Bank‘s Frankfurtheadquarters are just such a building. Actually, a pair of buildings,two 509-foot-tall towers of gorgonian ugly. It isn’t that they’re toostocky or too shiny or too awkward, though they are all of thesethings. No, they’re atriumph of new over old, their glassy tubes having risen in 1983 on thesite of a gorgeous, ill-fated 19th-century palace. The shape, anabstract take on Deutsche Bank’s logo,dispatches a message of raw self-absorption, and the mirror facadecommemorates vanity in the age of Gordon Gekko. They’re a monument to the excesses of asupposedly bygone era.
Except now they’re green. This fall, Deutsche Bank will unveil its grand marketing offensiveretrofit, complete with a new energy-efficient facade;smart elevators; and windows that actually open, which is rare in askyscraper and pretty cool for employees. The efforts will slash energyconsumption in half, and by 2013, the bank claims it’ll be carbonneutral, though the specifics remain unclear.
For the timebeing, the bank has covered all its PR bases. Famous architect (MarioBellini): check. Local eco-cred (German Sustainable Building Councilcert): check. The bank gets to boast thatit’s on track to being the world’s first LEED Platinum renovatedskyscraper.
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 mechanicalsystems isn’t cheap, nor is ripping off the old facade and replacing it with highly insulated, triple-paned glass.
Other banks haveused green building to rebrand, occasionally to unremarkable ends,but hey, at least they tried something new. Deutsche Bank will tell youthat it likes the look of its headquarters, thank you very much.They’re “iconic.” (And Gekkoian.)