June 24, 2015

Lofty Ambitions: Ippolito Fleitz Transforms a Frankfurt Office Tower

A 1990’s office tower. That sounds unpromising enough. Then add a location in the gray city of Frankfurt, no less. Those starting points notwithstanding, the Ippolito Fleitz Group managed to bring high-style oomph and even a bit of whimsy to this multipronged project for Phoenix Real Estate Development.

It helped that Peter Ippolito and Gunter Fleitz are personal friends of the partners at Phoenix. “These are unconventional guys in the market,” Ippolito says. “They like a bit of twinkle, and they’re big story-tellers. We tried to give that energy a place in the renovation.”

The 11-story tower, recently reclad in limestone, epitomizes “that clean-cut Frankfurt look,” he continues. And he can be forgiven for throwing a bit of intra-German shade. Ippolito Fleitz’s base is Stuttgart, considered the country’s manufacturing and engineering hub versus slightly larger Frankfurt for banking—the two are rivals. Behind the tower’s unassuming facade lay 8,000 square feet of public space that Ippolito Fleitz was hired to transform as well as designing a few tenants’ office suites, totaling another 20,000 square feet.

Starting in the lobby, now utterly transformed, the aesthetic is “a little bit sensual, with more character,” Fleitz says. “Phoenix’s goal was to have the best lobby in Frankfurt.” He and Ippolito may well have accomplished that. 

Protruding from the walls, in slightly different depths, white fins create a mesmerizing, undulating visual effect. What you don’t notice, tucked between, is the soundproofing that reduces the annoying noisiness so common in spaces where people stream in and out. “Improving  acoustics is always a priority,” Ippolito says. 

With no need for acoustical tile on the ceiling, it could be clad in a composition of mirrored triangles installed to angle slightly downward, creating kaleidoscopic reflections that make it seem from certain perspectives as if the space were an atrium. To pull you through, toward the elevators, Ippolito Fleitz designed two long forms in solid-surfacing, their irregular folds recalling Zaha Hadid. The white form on the left is the reception desk, while the black one on the right is a bench.

When the elevators open up on seven, Ippolito Fleitz’s surprising flair is immediately in evidence again. Flanking the reception area, full-height vitrines contain a profusion of tropical-looking greenery. As in: “It’s a jungle out there in the real-estate business.” Never mind that the lush-seeming greenery is entirely fake. “It’s about the desire for beauty, too,” Ippolito explains.

For an extra jolt, the vitrines sport neon letters spelling out the names of Beatles
songs: “Eight Days a Week,” “We Can Work It Out,” and the like. That’s a private joke made public, since the four Phoenix partners think of themselves as a real-estate version of the Fab Four. No word on who admits to being Ringo.

Also in-jokes are the framed photographs casually propped against the wall in the conference room. The image of a broom refers to Stuttgart’s reputation for being tidy, and the polar bear represents the swagger Phoenix is known for. In addition to being fun, the whimsical touches serve a real icebreaking purpose when it comes to getting things accomplished. “You instantly have something to talk about with clients,” Fleitz says. “You can have a nice conversation that leads into a more serious subject.”

Materials and colors likewise balance sobriety and lightheartedness. Walnut veneer tops the conference table, an echo of paneling outside, but paint is Easter egg blue. Around the table, task chairs by Charles and Ray Eames are hallmarks of modernism, but their chic chartreuse seats may prompt a double take for newcomers to the Phoenix approach.

A business with a much more conservative mind-set shares the seventh floor with Phoenix in addition to occupying  the three levels above. It’s the executive search firm Egon Zehnder International, and Ippolito Fleitz gets the message across right away with the reception desk, a taupe-stained oblong set on a limestone plinth. “It’s very rational. Nobody gets scared with wild geometries,” Ippolito says. The spareness emphasizes the expansive city views. 

Tamer but still smart, the scheme includes some striking pieces. A librarylike meeting room centers on a glam hub-and-spoke chandelier in aluminum with globes of smoked glass, and the table beneath is an asymmetrical, rounded wedge. Whether in Frankfurt, in Stuttgart, or anywhere else, keeping clients satisfied never goes out of style.

Project Team
: Christian Kirschenmann (Project Architect); Kim Angenendt; Andrew Bardzik; Alexander Fehre; Katja Heinemann; Hélène Lahache; Tim Lessmann; Yuliya Lytyuk; You Seok Na; Emma Nishimoto; Isabel Pohle; Enrique Sanz Segura; Verena Schiffl; Marina Schlachter; Markus Schmidt; Daniela Schröder: Ippolito Fleitz Group. Lichtwerke: Lighting Consultant. Werner Genest Und Partner Ingenieurgesellschaft: Acoustical Consultant. B+G Ingenieure Bollinger Und Grohmann: Structural Engineer. Ingenieurbüro Liebert Versorgungstechnik: Mechanical Engineer. Ibb Burrer & Deuring Ingenieurbüro: Electrical Engineer. Bühler Innenausbau: Stonework. Jaeger Ausbau: Glasswork. Neon Design: Signage Workshop. Ganter Interior: General Contractor.

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