Coin, by United

United Architects - Competition-entry European Central Bank, Frankfurt (Copyright United Architects)
United Architects - Competition-entry ECB, Frankfurt (Copyright United Architects)

The competition for the new office building of the European Central Bank, the ECB, was won by the Austrian architects of Coop Himmelb(l)au with a quite modest design.

The most interesting design – and probably one of the most unlikely to win – in my view came from the team of United Architects, a collective of architects instigated by Kevin Kennon to – successfully – participate in the WTC competition in New York, with prominent members such as UN Studio, Foreign Office, and Greg Lynn. In New York the team was at the end beaten by Daniel Libeskind, but the design-team proved a success.

Although they all are credited for the design, Greg Lynn admitted in his lecture at Harvard that the main idea for the ECB design came of Ben van Berkel of UN Studio, who came up with the iconography of the coin. Their website doesn’t mention anything like this, but the design tells the story.

The perfectly round form echoes surely the euro coin. It is a brilliant iconography, and I will explain why. Back in February I did an interview for the magazine Driemaster with the Dutch Minister of Finance Mr. Gerrit Zalm. He proudly showed that the knots of the jacket he was wearing were made of euro-coins, in different sizes even. He said he had a small collection of these things. The most eloquent representation of the monetary institutions is money.

One euro coin
The one euro coin

The design by United Architects is an abstract representation of the coin, as the icon is transformed in a sophisticated transformation. As an object it ends up also referring to the flipping or spinning of a coin. A possible negative metaphor as it relates to gambling.

And the form also reminded me of the Selenite minerals, radiate crystals of calcium sulfate. 

Selenite mineral, 'Desert Rose' (Photographer: Adamantine/Flickr)
Selenite mineral, ‘Desert Rose’ (Photographer: Adamantine/Flickr)

United Architects - Competition-entry European Central Bank, Frankfurt (Copyright United Architects)
United Architects - Competition-entry ECB, Frankfurt (Copyright United Architects)

United Architects - Competition-entry European Central Bank, Frankfurt (Copyright United Architects) United Architects - Competition-entry European Central Bank, Frankfurt (Copyright United Architects)
United Architects - Competition-entry ECB, Frankfurt (Copyright United Architects)

United Architects - Competition-entry ECB, Frankfurt (Copyright United Architects)
United Architects - Competition-entry ECB, Frankfurt (Copyright United Architects)

United Architects - Competition-entry European Central Bank, Frankfurt (Copyright United Architects)
United Architects - Competition-entry ECB, Frankfurt (Copyright United Architects)

United Architects - Competition-entry European Central Bank, Frankfurt (Copyright United Architects) United Architects - Competition-entry European Central Bank, Frankfurt (Copyright United Architects)
United Architects - Competition-entry ECB, Frankfurt (Copyright United Architects)

Related: ICE, by UN Studio, Mercedes-Benz, by UN Studio, Body, by FOA, Waves, by FOA, Filmstrip and Nokia, by FOA, Origami, by FOA, Castell, by FOA, Sailboat, by FOA,

The project is added to the Architects and Representation pages.


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