AXA Versicherung AG, apartment and office building, Frankfurt/Main

Construction, production and installation of library, reception area and archive furniture

Completion 2002


At least Frankfurt still has vision when it comes to real estate, mocks the city’s FAZ newspaper. The reason: Jo. Franzke designed a building for the AXA insurance company which deviates 4° from vertical. The angle of slope to the building is only half that of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and yet at 46 metres high, it juts four metres out from the vertical at its top. The reason for this architectural singularity, unique in all of Germany is that this way, daylight can flood the inner courtyard. The effect, as Franzke professes: “is like a flower in full bloom.”
So much for the exterior innovations from Jo. Franzke’s design. Now to the attributes of the interior fittings and thus the work of Deutsche Werkstätten. The building’s principal tenant is the distinguished law firm of White & Case. They wanted to have an extensive reference library on the ground floor. Since the new building embraced such unusual architecture, run-of-the-mill solutions were never an option, and that included the material to be used for the library – only the finest Swiss pear wood would do. Normally, the rear panels of shelving act in securing the statics. This was also not an option here because the design called for shelves three metres high with rear panels made of glass. Our solution: having the frame structure bear all the load. The sides, underbody and facing to the shelving define its design. The wires for the overhead lighting run up within the sides. Newspaper racks, standing lecterns and desks match the monolithic design of the shelves. Special feature: the custom-made ladder with rail attachment and book supports in all sections. DWH experts examined close to 25,000 square metres of veneer before deciding on about 1000 square metres which exhibited virtually uniform texture and colour. Incidentally, the reception counter employs the same material as that used in the library: Swiss pear wood and the same type of glass. The stainless steel letters affixed to the glass to spell out the firm’s name are backlit and appear to be floating freely.

Text: Rainer Baginski
Photo: Waltraud Krase