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IG Farben Building

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Phone  +49 69 7980
Architect  Hans Poelzig
IG Farben Building

Address  Norbert-Wollheim-Platz 1, 60323 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Similar  Grüneburgpark, Monowitz concentration camp, Jewish Museum Frankfurt, Eschenheimer Turm, Palmengarten

In and around the abrams building 2014 frankfurt germany

The IG Farben Building, officially known as the Poelzig Building, is a building complex in Frankfurt, Germany, which currently serves as the main campus of the University of Frankfurt. It was built from 1928 to 1930 as the corporate headquarters of the IG Farben conglomerate, then the world's largest chemical company and the world's fourth-largest company overall.


The building's original design in the modernist New Objectivity style was the subject of a competition which was eventually won by the architect Hans Poelzig. On its completion, the complex was the largest office building in Europe and remained so until the 1950s. The IG Farben Building's six square wings retain a modern, spare elegance, despite its mammoth size. It is also notable for its paternoster elevators.

The building was the headquarters for production administration of dyes, pharmaceutical drugs, magnesium, lubricating oil, explosives, and methanol, and for research projects relating to the development of synthetic oil and rubber during World War II. Notably IG Farben scientists discovered the first antibiotic, fundamentally reformed medical research and "opened a new era in medicine." After World War II, the IG Farben Building served as the headquarters for the Supreme Allied Command and from 1949 to 1952 the High Commissioner for Germany (HICOG). It became the principal location for implementing the Marshall Plan, which supported the post-war reconstruction of Europe. The 1948 Frankfurt Documents, which led to the creation of a West German state allied with the western powers, were signed in the building. The IG Farben Building served as the headquarters for the US Army's V Corps and the Northern Area Command (NACOM) until 1995. The US Army renamed the building the General Creighton W. Abrams Building in 1975.

In 1995, the US Army transferred the IG Farben Building to the German government, and it was purchased by the state of Hesse on behalf of the University of Frankfurt. The building underwent a restoration and was opened as part of the university in 2001.

The site

The IG Farben Building was developed on land known as the Grüneburggelände in Frankfurt's Westend District. In 1837, the property belonged to the Rothschild family. In 1864, the city's psychiatric hospital known as "Affenfelsen" or "Affenstein"', was erected on the site. The name Affenstein derives from an ancient Christian memorial that once stood here on the road outside Frankfurt. It was known as the "Avestein" as in Ave Maria but in the local Frankfurt dialect it was called the "Affe Stein". Here, Dr Heinrich Hoffman hired Alois Alzheimer to work in the hospital, where they both explored progressive methods of treating the mentally ill. The Grüneburgpark was established in 1880 on the larger western part of the site.

Early history

IG Farben acquired the property in 1927 to establish its headquarters there. In the 1920s, IG Farben (full German name Interessen Gemeinschaft Farbenindustrie Aktiengesellschaft) was the world's largest drug, chemical and dye conglomerate. Frankfurt was chosen because of its centrality and its accessibility by air and land.

In August 1928, Professor Hans Poelzig won a limited competition to design the building, among five selected architects, notably beating Ernst May, the then Head of Urban Design for Frankfurt.

Work on the foundations began in late 1928, and in mid-1929 construction started on the steel frame. The building was completed in 1930 after only 24 months, by employing rapid-setting concrete, new construction materials and a round-the-clock workforce. Later in 1930, the Frankfurt director of horticulture Max Bromme and the artists' group Bornimer Kreis developed designs for the 14 hectares of parkland that surrounded the building. The grounds, and the complex as a whole, were completed in 1931 at a total cost of 24 million Reichsmark (150 million DEM, 76.8 million EUR in 2017).

Second World War

IG Farben subsequently became an indispensable part of the Nazi industrial base. The building was the headquarters for research projects for the development of wartime synthetic oil and rubber, as well as the production administration of magnesium, lubricating oil, explosives, and methanol. The building was used by IG Farben for 15 years.

During World War II, the surrounding neighbourhood was devastated, but the building itself was left largely intact (and inhabited by the homeless citizens of a bomb-ravaged Frankfurt). In March 1945, Allied troops occupied the area and the IG Farben Building became the American headquarters of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower's office was where he received many important guests; including General de Gaulle, Field Marshal Montgomery and Marshal Zhukov. It was there that he signed the "Proclamation No. 2", which determined which parts of the country would be within the American zone. Eisenhower vacated the building in December 1945 but his office was still used for special occasions: the constitution of the state of Hesse was signed there, the West German Ministerpräsident received his commission to compile the Grundgesetz (German constitution) and the administration of the Wirtschaftsrat der Bizone (Economic Council of the Bizone) was also located there.

Cold War

From 1945 to 1947, the IG Farben Building was the location of the Supreme Headquarters, Allied European Forces, and was the headquarters for the US occupation forces and Military Governor. On May 10, 1947, permanent orders to military personnel prohibited further reference to the building as the "IG Farben Building", and instead called for it to be referred to as "The Headquarters Building, European Command". The United States High Commissioner for Germany (HICOG) and his staff occupied the building from 1949 to 1952.

After 1952, the building served as the European centre of the American armed forces and the headquarters of the U.S. V Corps. It later became the headquarters for the Northern Area Command until 1994. The IG Farben Building was also the headquarters of the CIA in Germany, which led to its sobriquet 'the Pentagon of Europe'. On April 16, 1975, the US Army renamed the building the General Creighton W. Abrams Building. The renaming did not have full authority in law, because the US was technically leasing the building from the German government and thus was not the rightful owner.

On May 11, 1972, three bombs were set off by the West German terrorist group Rote Armee Fraktion (Red Army Faction, i.e., the Baader-Meinhof Group). Two bombs went off in a rotunda in the rear entrance of the IG Farben building, and a third exploded in a smaller building behind the IG Farben building that was serving as the US Military's officer's club. Lt. Col. Paul Bloomquist was killed by the last bomb, and dozens of Americans and Germans were injured. The IG Farben building was attacked again by the same group in 1976 and 1982. Consequently, the publicly accessible adjoining park became part of a restricted military zone which also included the military living quarters and work areas at the rear of the building.

Recent years

Following German reunification, the US government announced plans to fully withdraw its troops from Frankfurt, Germany by 1995, at which time control of the entire site would be restored to the German Federal Government. It was suggested that the building could become the location for the European Central Bank. In 1996, the state of Hesse bought the building and associated land for the University of Frankfurt. The buildings were refurbished at a cost of 50 Million German Mark (about US $26M or 25M €), by the Copenhagen-based architecture practice Dissing+Weitling and were handed over to the university. The complex now houses the Westend Campus of the university, which includes the departments of Philosophy, History, Theology, Classical Philology, Art and Music, Modern Languages and Linguistics, Cultural and Civilization Studies, the Center for North American Studies and the Fritz-Bauer-Institute.

Renaming controversy

The university's tenancy of the building sparked a debate regarding the name of the building. Former University President Werner Meissner had started the controversy by renaming it the "Poelzig-Ensemble" (Poelzig-Complex). Students and, in increasing numbers, members of the faculty insisted on confronting the building's history by retaining its original name, the "IG Farben Building". Meissner's successor, Rudolf Steinberg, upheld the university's decision to retain the name, but he did not enforce a uniform nomenclature within the university's administration. After the grand opening of the building in 2001, AStA chairman Wulfila Wido Walter objected to the "misuse of Hans Poelzig" [sic] and proposed leaving the name of the main building unchanged, and calling the smaller casino building the "Poelzig Casino"; this proposal won little support. By 2004, the "Poelzig-Ensemble" proposal had become a moot point—the debate was overtaken by strong political lobbying for an appropriate commemoration and memorial of remembrance: Vice President Brita Rang set up a permanent exhibition inside the building, and a memorial plaque—for the slave labourers of IG Farben and those who had perished by Zyklon B gas—was installed on the front of the building. The Senate of the University agreed on a joint initiative by the student senator of the Green University group, David Profit, and Angelika Marx the senator of the United Services Union, to name a place on the new campus's western end after the former slave labourer Norbert Wollheim.

Despite the renamings by the University and the American military administration, the building is still usually called the IG Farben Building by the general public. The association of the building with Nazism has been hard to shake off, despite its outstanding 1920s architecture. Der Spiegel wrote about the "Smell of Guilt" after its public opening in 1995, but also that the building itself did not deserve the bad reputation. Only with the departure of the Americans, the subsequent renovations, and the use of the building by the university has the building's association with the Third Reich in the popular consciousness receded. As of 2010, the building is referred to as IG Farben Hochhaus on the campus map.


Behind the IG Farben Building, the state of Hessen intends to build "Europe's most modern campus" to accommodate the remaining departments of the University's old Bockenheim campus, law, business, social sciences, child development, and the arts.


In 1928, IG Farben was the world's fourth-largest company and its largest chemical company. Consequently, the space requirements for the building were for one of the largest office buildings ever constructed. It was designed in the New Objectivity style.

IG Farben did not want a specifically 'Bauhaus' styled building—it wanted:

A symbol, in iron and stone, of German commercial and scientific manpower. Baron von Schnitzler, IG Farben Director, 1930.

The 250-metre long and 35-metre tall building has nine floors, but the height of the ground floor varies (4.6–4.2 m). This variation is reflected in the roof line which looks taller at the wings than the spine. The volume of the building is 280,000 m³, constructed from 4,600 tonnes of steel frame with brick infill and floors constructed of hollow blocks to provide over 55740 m² of usable office space". The façade is clad with 33,000 m² Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt Travertine marble, punctuated in bands of windows decreasing in height with each storey. Only at the corners are the glazed strips interrupted for emphasis. The top storey is lit from skylights rather than banded glazing and has a very low ceiling height. It forms a clear building conclusion. Until the 1950s, the building was the largest and most modern office building in Europe.

The IG Farben Building consists of six wings, connected by a gently curved, central corridor. This arrangement provides all of the offices with sufficient natural light and ventilation. This design approach for large complexes offers an alternative to the "hollow rectangle" schemes of the time, with their typical inner courtyards. The prototype of this form is the General Motors Building in Detroit (1917–21) by Albert Kahn. The building presents a very large and weighty façade to the front, but this effect is reduced by the concave form.

The main entrance is at the axial centre of the building, comprising a temple-like portico standing in front of the doors—a relatively common motif of administration buildings of the time. The entrance arrangement is regarded by some people as slightly pompous: the entrance and lift doors are of bronze, and the ceiling and walls of the porch are clad in bronze plate and copper friezes. The inner lobby has two curved staircases with a sheet aluminum treatment, and marble walls with a zigzag pattern. The axial centre at the rear of the building has a round glazed façade; here, the view of the buildings at the rear of the site (the "casino") is maximised by the curved walls that afford vistas to the subsidiary buildings 100 m distant, separated from the main building by parkland and a pool. During the American occupation of the building, this rotunda housed a small kiosk; later, it was used as a conference room. Nowadays, it is called the Dwight D. Eisenhower room and accommodates a café.

The paternoster lifts that serve the nine floors are famous, and are popular with the university students. After the recent restoration, the university has pledged to preserve them in perpetuity.

Behind the rotunda is an oblong pool with a Nymphenskulptur (German:Nymph sculpture) at the water's edge created by Fritz Klimsch entitled "Am Wasser". Behind it stands a flat building on a hill with a terrace—the casino of IG Farben and the Officers Club of the US Army ("The Terrace Club"), which now houses a refectory and lecture-rooms.


A number of unconfirmed rumours concern the complex:

  • Hans Poelzig was not favoured by the Nazi regime and was banned by IG Farben from entering the building after its completion.
  • General Eisenhower issued orders to preserve the building during the bombardment of Frankfurt, because he intended to use it after the war as his headquarters. It may also have been that the building was saved by its proximity to Grüneburgpark with its prisoner of war camp holding captured American airmen.
  • Two or three basements were under the Poelzig building, which were sealed and flooded. In fact, the building only has one basement level.
  • There were rumors about a tunnel connecting the building with Frankfurt's main railway station. - In fact there was no tunnel to the station, but a service tunnel to connect the casino to the main building's heating-system, which was filled up during the 1996–2001 renovation.
  • At the reflecting pool behind the building, the "Am Wasser" sculpture of a naked water nymph was moved during the American occupation. The nymph was moved to the Hoechst Chemical concern in Frankfurt/ Hoechst at the request of Mamie Eisenhower (the general's wife), who deemed it inappropriate for a military installation. The statue has since been returned to its original location.
  • References

    IG Farben Building Wikipedia