The Frankfurt Sparkasse Head Office at Hasengasse was built between 1954 and 1956. Now, after having undergone extensive conversion work, it has morphed into Frankfurt’s Central Municipal Library. In 2005, Frankfurt - based architects office KSP Jürgen Engel Architekten was assigned with the design and the facilities were ready for use as early as July 2007. On September 19th, 2007, the library was officially inaugurated in the presence of Lady Mayoress Petra Roth.
At the time of its construction, the bank office was one of Frankfurt’s modern buildings and today is still considered a prime example of 1950s architecture. The careful and deliberate structural changes follow the principles underlying the original building and yet at the same time instill the edifice with a new identity. As many as 3,000 people visit the library each day, making it an important element in the drive to enhance and enliven the area situated between the Römer and the Zeil. Only the façade on the ground floor facing the courtyard has been redesigned, thus preserving the ensemble’s original charm at the intersection of the Hasengasse and Töngesgasse.
The new design of the forecourt forms a key element of the new construction plans since this is essential to upgrading the urban building situation. Be lifting up the level of the forecourt to meet that of the ground floor of the library not only enables smooth wheelchair access to the Central Municipal Library, but in addition extends the overall structure to the line of the street curb and thus continues the overall block structure. In 1967, the Tugendbrunnen fountain was shifted from the Heiliggeistspital in the Saalgasse to this location. It is important evidence attesting to the diversity of Frankfurt’s historical quarter and has been given a new and prominent position. Seating opportunities surround it in a way that structure the square to the north. A café and terrace are situated on the eastern flank. As with the seats around Tugendbrunnen, this welcomes passers - by to sit down and spend some time there while also enlivening the area.
In the building’s interior, the library’s public areas group around a central three-story atrium. In terms of visual and spatial aspects, they connect in an optimal way. Even the administrative area/offices on the 2nd floor have a direct view of the hall, with only a glass wall separating the two spaces. The atrium can be used, just like a market square, for a variety of events. Five large, sculptural roof lights provide the atrium with light while their intense colors are striking components within the library. A key element and the most important design feature is the curved reading tower at the end of the hall. It connects the different flights of the library by means of a stairway behind and an integrated escalator.
The new color concept for the library accentuates only a small number of special areas. A strong red tone is the new corporate color of the Central Municipal Library. It emphasizes the key essential elements and references the color of the City of Frankfurt. Already from a distance a red banner draws visitors from the courtyard into the interior of the building. On the inside in the entrance area it morphs into the accompanying surface and further develops to be the dominant color within the library. By contrast, yellow marks the information points like the issues and information desks on each floor, thus enabling visitors to easily and quickly orientate themselves in the building. The white, gray or silver colors of the walls, ceilings, floors and bookshelves are chosen as they are more unobtrusive.
In the inner section of the red reading tower the colors change from red to warm orange tones, providing a pleasant atmosphere encouraging visitors to linger. Here visitors can sit on integrated benches and read in peace and quiet or watch what goes on in the hall below. At the back part of the tower, a free flight of stairs connects the open public areas ranging from the ground floor up to the 2nd floor. The elevator in the reading tower provides easy access for all visitors to the tiers. There is a link between the colors in the inside of the elevator car and those of the library – the same green of the elevator also features on the ground floor.
The former vault in the basement has been preserved and converted into a training classroom and study room, in line with the library’s innovative study concept. The old vault door and the colored frames accentuating the wall thickness refer back to the building’ previous use. The expressive illumination of the walls and ceiling as well as the glass wall with integrated louvre blinds, enable the room to be subdivided into two distinct sections. Located in the basement is an extensive media library and a multimedia area as an additional offer for young people. All in all, the library offers 200 modern work and reading spaces.
Located on the two top floors are the Central Municipal Library’s offices and administrative rooms. Furthermore the Municipal Participations Department and the Municipal Department of Women’s Aaffairs have moved into the building. These floors are grouped around an interior courtyard that is above the roof of the hall. They can be reached through a separate entrance from the forecourt. The five chamfered cones of the skylights on this rooftop resemble interested observers. The new area outside area developed in this way is very inviting and can be used for events by either the institutions or the employees.