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Lighting concept for the banking district

Masterplan Licht Bankenviertel

Illumination concept, Public space
District: Completed:

Project description

Reason for planning
Further to its commitment to balance the different demands made of public space, the City of Frankfurt intends to propose a concept for lighting the banking district that will harmonize the city’s nightscape. To this end, the City seeks to put in place an overarching masterplan that will enhance the quality of the urban fabric and ensure a sustainable use of energy. The aim is to counteract the potential danger of a situation in which individual concepts compete to outdo each other in their intensity and effects.

Development district
The assessment focused on the central banking district and the streetscapes immediately adjacent to it between Hauptwache, the Wallanlage green belt and the Main embankment in the western part of the inner city. The neighboring high-rise locations in the east of the Bahnhofsviertel district and along Mainzer Landstrasse were likewise evaluated.

Planning objective
The aim of the assessment was to devise and develop a general concept for the illumination of the banking district, consisting of a masterplan for lighting and individual concepts for high-rise illumination that highlight the buildings without this being to the detriment of city life. The task also involved exploring a potential directive or guideline on light.

Planning progress
The illumination masterplan for the banking district, comprising general design criteria for illumination as well as six individual concepts for high-rises, was finalized in 2006. On its basis, an illumination guideline or directive for high-rises is currently being devised.

PDF files relating to the project

More information

Why a masterplan?

The skyline as an extraordinary urban feature distinguishes the City of Frankfurt from other European metropolises. Some 50 tall structures that are over 50 meters high are concentrated in downtown Frankfurt. The demand for high-quality, centrally located office space continues to be strong and further high-rises are on the drawing boards. Users, the majority of which are financial services institutions, increasingly endeavor to give their high-profile buildings a stronger presence at night, too.

Upon closer examination it transpires that given the overall effect when viewed from a distance, the illumination of just a single high-rise greatly impacts on the city’s overall nightscape. Thus high-rise illumination has a reach which potentially goes far beyond the original positive intentions and thus needs to be subjected to responsible rules and regulations in the interest of the city as a whole.

To this end, the City of Frankfurt commissioned a joint group consisting of B.A.S. + Conceptlicht to develop the “Banking District Lighting Masterplan”, which examines all aspects relating to illumination and puts forward an idea for what the entire banking district should look like at night. It proposes a strategy that inter-relates public space illumination, architecture, building illuminations and neon advertising in a new way. The masterplan points up the shortcomings of the city’s nightscape and uses this as a basis to develop objectives and recommendations for the future illumination of the city.

Evening view of the skyline, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main


Shortcoming: Glare from street lights, Foto: BAS conceptlicht, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main

Shortcoming: Glare from street lights

Nowadays the nightscape of cities tends to produce a giant dome of light that far exceeds actual lighting requirements. There are two reasons for this: On the one hand, the streets at night lack a clearly defined structure, making it impossible to perceive zones and spaces as differentiated entities. The result is an even blur, devoid of any detail. On the other, such phenomena are also manifestations of a city’s vibrant nightlife. The objective in creating an authentic nightscape must therefore be to communicate the city’s urban flair during the night, while at the same time refraining from using artificial light to accentuate meaningless structures.

Shortcoming: Illumination without color reflection, Foto: BAS conceptlicht, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main

Shortcoming: Illumination without color reflection

Work on the masterplan commenced with a detailed study of the city’s image by day as this then formed the basis for the design of an authentic nightscape. To this end, nighttime uses, open spaces, the streetscape and visual relationships were analyzed along with built structures and high-rises. Explicit evening and nighttime uses include hotels, bars and restaurants, as well as illuminated shop windows that attract attention after trading hours. In contrast to public spaces in thoroughbred office districts with potentially uninviting facades, the lived spaces downtown offer superior amenity and leisure-time qualities.

The shortcomings of how streets look at night can be summarized as follows: light pollution, glare, unintended highlighting, and unauthentic color reflections through illumination.

On the basis of the structural analysis of the city and the shortcomings identified, the planners identified the following objectives for the masterplan:

  1. Reduce glare – intensify ambient light!
  2. Define and replicate the contours of the cityscape with light!
  3. Darkness is quality! 
  4. Illumination can only accentuate something worth showing. Seeking to illuminate an empty space will seem artificial and meaningless!
  5. Accentuate architectural structures and spatial dimensions using the simplest means possible!
  6. Relate architecture, building illumination, neon advertising and public-space illuminations to one another!

Contents of the masterplan

The lighting masterplan seeks to create an authentic nightscape for Frankfurt that will accentuate the material properties of spaces and objects, while avoiding artificial lighting effects. The aim is to produce an image at night which exudes a natural urban flair. In realizing this objective, in particular the contours of the cityscape will be defined and replicated – consciously involving dark areas, a feel for spatial composition, and an unobtrusive overall concept.

Even though the skyline plays a key role in how the city presents itself to the outside world, the masterplan is not exclusively tailored to the illumination of Frankfurt’s high-rises. The City of Frankfurt is therefore chiefly concerned to make certain that public spaces and high-rises form a coherent and balanced whole. The concept provides a well thought-out view of the cityscape in relation to its image at night – in this particular case, the wider banking district. In particular, public squares and parks, street lighting, neon advertising, the illumination of special (e.g., public and historical) buildings along with standalones, such as fountains and monuments, were studied in depth.
Providing examples of potential solutions, such as the design proposal for the Wallanlage greenbelt, the overall concept illustrates the potential for deploying light as an urban development tool.

Design concept for the Wallanlage greenbelt, © BAS_conceptlicht

In addition, the masterplan contains general illumination criteria that are to be further refined as a set of guidelines both for public-sector and private-sector stakeholders. To date, the expert assessment has not yet resulted in formulation of a guideline or directive. However, the masterplan already forms the basis for all upcoming public-space redevelopment measures, such as Neue Mainzer Straße.

Individual concepts for high-rise illumination

The next stage in the challenging task of high-rise illumination was to develop individual concepts. Interested investors were shown the immense potential for the illumination of buildings that, while blending in with the overall cityscape, will nonetheless accentuate the company’s image. What is important in this context is that relative to their appearance during the day, the high-rises’ night image does not distort what they look like.

When devising the individual illumination concepts, which have been developed on the basis of the masterplan, the City of Frankfurt relied on a number of light planners, architects and artists and (specifically with regard to those high-rises that cut across both private and public interests) closely collaborated with the parties concerned.

Preliminary concepts for individual high-rises were then drawn up on the basis of the general design criteria; each of them culminated in a specific illumination proposal that would benefit the overall cityscape.

Site map of the high-rise district, concept: BAS conceptlicht, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main

Here again planning started with the structural analysis of the high-rise and its location. The key objective was to determine the urban side to the high-rise illumination and to revisit the design criteria that then formed the recommendations for planners and architects.
Aside from feasibility, aspects such as interaction within the urban context, daytime and nighttime appearance of the architectural structures, the protection of our cultural heritage and the ambient surroundings, economic viability, identity, neon advertising and light pollution were all examined. Low energy solutions were accorded particular relevance.

Montage of the Trianon, on the left: in the day-time, © Stadtplanungsamt Frankfurt am Main, on the right: at night, Simulation: Dietz Joppien ArchitektenAG mit luna lichtarchitektur macina, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main

To name an example: the architects at Dietz Joppien teamed up with luna lichtarchitektur light engineers to develop a new illumination concept for the Trianon high-rise. The envisaged exterior light concept is destined to ensure a clear night-time profile for the building’s extraordinary facades, which ensure it stands out during the day.

Moreover, low-energy consumption alternatives are proposed for the tetrahedron, which is already illuminated. The new option makes use of the properties of the semi-reflective material that clads the existing structure.

The new concept will illuminate the entire building but have a lower energy balance.