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Henninger Turm

Frankfurt am Main, 2018

The underlying theme for the new Henninger Turm residential high-rise is a determination to uphold the history of the original Henninger Turm, which was a somewhat quirky yet popular monument and is hugely significant in Frankfurt and indeed throughout Hessen. Every spatial or formal decision needed to bow to this outstanding history.

The original Henninger Turm – a grain silo topped by a revolving restaurant – was testament to the 1960s and represented the euphoria of those times. In its day, it was innovative and was seen as a kind of landmark. One might even say it was a monument infused with emotion.
All this meant that there was a great need to preserve the image of the old Henninger Turm in the new concept, preserving its profile and transforming it at the same time. The challenge was also to create ambiguity from a pseudo-readymade design and in so doing conceive a contemporary residential tower.


The transformation of the existing building takes inspiration from the precise original form of the Henninger Turm. Visible from miles around, this square tower with its mighty proportions and its barrel-like revolving restaurant perched like an eagle’s nest atop it represented a considerable burden as a basic model when the task was to develop a new, spatially complex overall composition.
Although the proportions have been significantly changed, the design of the tower functions as a readymade model in the collective mind: To the people of Frankfurt, the Henninger Turm has been resurrected.

The new tower was developed according to the dimensions required for the building’s core shafts, technology and fire safety, as well as appropriate proportions for the residential levels, and meanwhile its overall proportions, so entrenched in the collective memory, have been preserved.
In the façade seen as part of the city skyline, the windows of the previous building have been replicated and multiplied. To the south, west and east, the façade is characterized by variation of the apartments and opening them out to take in the views, in line with the new purpose as a residential high-rise. Generously dimensioned protruding balcony levels running on three sides form spacious outside areas, while partial windshields and winter garden areas facilitate different uses with varying protection zones. This two-story loggia space serves to ease the transition from inside the residential areas into the breadth of the urban space.

The plinth area protectively encloses the public courtyard, with the various purposes grouped around this courtyard serving the district as a whole: retail, sports facilities, a parking garage, and cafés and restaurants. The courtyard and plaza levels are reached via numerous access points and thoroughfares, and the two courtyard levels are connected by broad open-air steps incorporating seating, helping the courtyard to function as a place for open communication and to connect all the different areas.

The Henninger Turm appears to be in a permanent state of metamorphosis:
Originally a grain silo, a barrel-shaped head housing a restaurant was incorporated as an extension even during the planning phase. The roof terrace became a rooftop restaurant and a cycle race initiated, while the tower later ceased to function as a silo. The restaurant was later closed, the cycle race renamed and the tower demolished. A residential high-rise has now been built, reflecting the silhouette of the original Henninger Turm in a new form, and a restaurant has once again been opened in the new “barrel” element. There is layer upon layer to the story of the Henniger Turm, and now there will be plenty more to tell in the future too.


Henninger Turm before its demolition

Henninger Turm before its demolition

Transformation of the tower

Transformation of the tower

Transformation from silo to residential tower

Transformation from silo to residential tower

3d model

3d model

Model studies

Model studies

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Actris Henninger Turm GmbH & Co. KG


José Ortells (project architect), Mark Etling (project architect competition), Rehemitula Batuer, Jahan Beyzavi, Marcella Combalia, Ramon Di Nora, Cordula Fischer, Mareike Fluhrer, Emanuel Gießen, Martin Goldhammer, Mario Grote, Michael Hennings, Chang-Yeh Ho, Alexander Hörr, Elisabeth Klein, Patrick Klügel, Zoran Milosevic, Thomas Riehling, Volker Rohde, Miriam Rollwa, Kerstin Sander, Friederike Sartor, Kay Sassmannshausen, Philipp Schams, Miodrag Stojsic, Manuela Weber, Thomas Weitershagen


Frankfurt am Main



Gross floor area

55.000 m²


Iconic Awards 2015
Best Architects 2020


The architectural expression of the buildings we have designed varies immensely. Nonetheless, they are based on an explicit architectural stance and share the same design approach.

1. Conceptual

As we see it, an architect should pay close attention to the actual conditions and allow them to develop fully. The logic of what is real imposes limits on the architect’s ideas, and any subjective thrust to the architecture is reduced to a minimum. After all, finding is more important than inventing. At the same time, it is important to transcend the existing situation intellectually and this ultimately transform it into an architectural design. It follows that our fundamental concern is to bear with the ambivalence between the actual parameters and what they inevitably translate into and come up with something beneficial in the process. To do this you must be capable of seeing precisely what already exists, be fascinated by it, but also let it inspire you to go beyond it if necessary.
This is why our concept entails us working with perceptions, images and associations, combining them with the practical parameters of the respective brief.

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Association object: Jigsaw in case

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Sheath of the saw case

Design process
We begin each design process by researching and thoroughly analyzing the specific features of a place and the brief. This involves exploring historical, cultural and symbolic layers and teasing out their vibrancy. Based on these insights, we collect all the possible associations that occur to us. Typically, these thoughts are closely bound up with the particular features of the place, existing architecture and brief. They emerge from a precise observation of everyday things, their arrangement and significance. These features might be furnished interiors or the items that generally shape a space, but can equally be existing, urban situations, the historical layers of a building or the history of a place. We then translate these authentic spatial structures and constellations that have developed naturally into model studies with a view to revitalizing the space at our disposal as perceptual space, space for reflection and space for social interaction.

In our design process the analysis of the existing circumstances merges with the transformation of existing situations or buildings. Specifically, we rely on intellectual associations and the images derived from them. What at first sight might appear to be a kind of ready-made becomes the basis for a new reality, which neither ignores its position in a given context nor the conditions under which it evolved. This approach also emphatically draws on past building typologies and techniques.
As such, our approach to architecture is based on our essentially seeing everything we do as a transformation or a conversion of existing situations. This is why the buildings we design respond sensitively to their immediate surroundings and urban context. At the same time, they also develop a sculptural impact. We resolve the seeming contradiction this produces by applying specially developed methods that are established practice in the world of contemporary art.

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For the project Reading Room at the Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt an abstract version of the study of an “intellectual compulsive hoarder” was created using multiple stacks of books.

2. Operative

Apart from realizing individual projects we also continually develop spatial studies that are not commissioned and in which spaces are played through on varying scales and explored in an exemplary manner.
Drawing on an idea from concept art we employ calculated experimentation with levels of perception and chains of association to kick off the design process; a method that produces solutions which might seem natural but are also surprising.

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A filled box as starting point for a steel sculpture

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Front view of the steel sculpture. The full box is easily recognizable.

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From behind, the steel sculpture reveals a totally different, abstract form.

Things suffused with human experiences, spatial and urban constellations are transformed graphically, sculpturally and architecturally.
Whether designing a new building or converting an existing one we place the focus firmly on perception – particularly regarding the ambivalence of mass and space, concreteness and abstraction. Existing buildings and constellations are infused with diverse social experiences that trigger specific associations. By identifying and analyzing their complex significance vibrant uses and means of social interaction in real space emerge. This creates a new view of places, buildings and things that in turn stimulates new ways of combining various images, atmospheres and uses.
We also engage in our own spatial studies – and have elaborated them over the years. They focus on examining and exploring examples of urban and urban planning concepts, spatial structures, building typology structures as well as artistic issues.

3. Exemplary

Spatial studies and projects
Over the years we have developed the following spatial concepts drawing on the methods described earlier. Through a series of sculptures, model studies and drawings we have examined how spatial concepts can be developed and realized not only considering the relationship between line, surface and space, but also between drawing and sculpture, representationalism and abstraction.

Steel sculptures
The steel sculptures by Florian Schlüter are conceived as walk-through drawings transposed into the realm of the three-dimensional. They revolve around the ambivalence between concepts such as mass and space, concreteness and abstraction and are aimed at exploring the authenticity of the everyday. These inconsistencies become integrated into later architecture projects as fundamental aspects of them.

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Steel sculpture "Room 01", sketch

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Steel sculpture "Room 01", front view

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Steel sculpture "Room 01", side view

Studies of urban space
In various studies of urban space, Claudia Meixner employs drawings, paintings and models to penetrate the relationship between mass and space, space as a complement of mass and space, mass and intervening space. Her starting points are both abstract but also specific urban constellations whose given sensual and material design become the point of departure for a transformation that can culminate in a new take on reality.

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Study of urban space 01

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Study of urban space 02

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Study of urban space 03

Building prototypes
Moreover, a series of model studies and installations are used to realize potential buildings. Complex spatial concepts are developed through addressing issues on the relationship between shell and core, the importance and function of interstices and elements in space.
Here furniture or furnishing elements in interiors are taken as the starting point. In this model study the constellations that have become usual in everyday life correspond with individual walk-through spaces in a large surrounding space. It is possible to experience the elements and their relationship to the overall space as well as the relationship between the intermediate space and the space as a whole.

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Various objects and arbitrarily stacked boxes as a starting point

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Model of accumulation/stacking

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Model intermediate space

In a first model study the starting point was the seemingly chance accumulation and stacking of things. The individual elements in the model represent interior spaces that can be walked through and form intermediate space.
The point of departure for another model study is the shaping and selective filling of intermediate spaces through a stacking and layering of various objects in the space. The relationship between positive and negative is reversed, while that of the volume and mass is redefined. The intermediate space becomes walk-through mass.

Exemplary projects
In addition to the afore-mentioned conceptual parameters, when realizing projects the practical parameters of relevance to the architecture also come into play and influence the substantive concept.
A whole raft of structural means contribute to the success of a sculptural edifice that expresses tranquility and agitation, gravity and lightness, stability and instability, depending on the overall concept.

Expo pavilion
In designing a pavilion for Expo 2000 the starting point was the geometry of a “simple house” with a saddle roof, a single interior space and several “items of furniture”. By enlarging it ten-fold the things morph into archetypal symbols. Perception per se is addressed and a new perception of the architectural space and the objects in it is created. Depending on the viewer’s angle the house, interior space and garden appear either symbolic, concrete or abstract.

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Rendering of the Expo 2000 pavilion

Wohlfahrt-Laymann House
The concept for transforming this residential building developed from the necessity to extend and structurally improve an archetypal house. A new sheath was created that encompasses the entire house. Diverse spatial constellations were produced within the cubic sheath architecture that experiment with the relationship between interior and exterior spaces and the intermediate spaces created as a result.

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View from the new living room of the old outer facade

As part of a project for Artemide, the shapes of several of the manufacturer’s luminaires were regarded as ready-mades, reduced to their essential components, merged with one another and cut out of a compact mass as a negative form. Through the play of light and shadow the resulting polyvalent volume produces a special spatial atmosphere and triggers diverse associations.

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Section of the 3d-printed form

Dornbusch Church
The special nature of the place and the reduction process is made evident in the partial dismantling and conversion of the Dornbusch Church. A new wall marked with indents and molds of the old church and elements that had been removed were used to form a sculpted structure. What is absent remains present in these molds. The perception of area and space is activated and the recollection of its earlier state reinforced.

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Ausgangspunkt Weinkarton

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The partly dismantled Dornbusch Church with relief wall and new plaza

In architecture as we understand it everything is basically transformation. We see our task as controlling the ambivalences that emerge during a transformation of an existing structure. This is not only easy on physical resources, but also revitalizes sensual, intellectual and ultimately cultural resources.