Sunday, 28 October 2018


Since working in Wiesbaden, I get pangs of guilt for not having visited neighbouring Frankfurt am Main (previously here and here) terribly often—especially given the ease of exploration and ample opportunities, not to mention all the things we haven’t seen. I took a long meandering walk through the city, beginning with the post-industrial wastelands that surrounded the Hauptbahnhof—the Gutleut quarter, the former manufacturing sector of the metropolis, grown around the export hub and marvelled at the Empire Age power plant erected in 1894, burning coal until 1994 when it made the transition to natural gas.
With quite a few detours, I made my way across town to see the Poelzig Building—known as the IG-Farben-Gebaüde. Completed in 1930, the compound was the headquarters of the chemical concern (the synthetic dye industry syndicate—the then one of the largest companies in the world), architect Hans Poelzig’s design embodied the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) movement of the inter-war years.
The mammoth though airy and sparsely modern space was a deemed a fitting showcase for the company that not only pioneered synthetic oils and discovered the first antibiotic, the research of the conglomerate played an indispensable role in pressing Germany and the world to conflict a second time—despite being publicly reviled and scapegoated by elements of the far right. After the surrender of Nazi Germany, the complex became the Supreme Allied Command and until 1952, the High Commissioner for Germany—earning it the informal moniker, the Pentagon of Europe—the US Defence Department completed in 1943.
Afterwards, it hosted the US Army V Corps, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers with the US withdrawing and returning the building to the state in 1995.
The ensemble of buildings became the Westend campus of the University of Frankfurt and houses the departments of philosophy, history, theology, linguistics and North American studies. The nude nymph statue at the reflecting pool was removed, at the request of Mamie Eisenhower, during American occupation, the commanding general’s wife deeming it inappropriate for a military installation. Another feature that the main building is known for are its paternoster lifts—which were formerly accessible to the visiting public but are presently inoperable.