saai | Archive for Architecture and Engineering

Digital Collection Egon Eiermann

Administrative and training centre Deutsche Olivetti


Administrative and training centre Deutsche Olivetti

Clearly visible from a distance, the two Olivetti towers on their massive concrete columns rise up conspicuously on either end of a pair of low-rise buildings. A superstructure consisting of a steel framework with balconies and light-colored sunscreens, lending the towers a highly unusual appearance, surrounds the concrete core.

Egon Eiermann, who did not live to see the completion of his last project, was commissioned in 1967 by the Olivetti company, a global player that manufactures computer and office equipment, to build an administration and training center for their German headquarters in Frankfurt-Niederrad, a district consisting mostly of office buildings. Olivetti was considered to be a special kind of client: the stile Olivetti stood for sophisticated aesthetic and high-quality product design, together with a strong emphasis on cultural and social concerns. Another important part of Olivetti's corporate philosophy is the company architecture, which was to document the firm's strong emphasis on quality. Eiermann spoke of a "delightful challenge" in conjunction with "the client's call for an architecture ... that would correspond with the high formal and technical standard of Olivetti's products."

Although the project was backed by an ideal client, the planning process itself was difficult, as a relatively narrow site had to accommodate the extensive building program. The brief called not only for office space for some 350 regular employees, including administration and sales offices, but also for showrooms for Olivetti products as weil as a guest house with a restaurant and a training center for a total of 150 course participants.

In the spring of 1968 Egon Eiermann presented the client with two different designs. The first, a low-rise solution with a number of low pavilions and some slab blocks, was rejected in view of the dominating character of the neighboring development with the Nestle tower. The second, however, which proposed two high-rise buildings–an elevated structure in the shape of a cone supported on a concrete column and a hanging structure-conformed more closely with the company's vision of an imposing, representative architecture, all the more so because it involved a structure for which there was no precedent in the history of architecture. To reduce the cost of the project, it was then decided to build both towers as raised cones.

In keeping with building regulations, the eaves height of the towers would have to equal the distance from the edge of the property. Thanks to the fact that the buildings would be raised on concrete columns, the towers could be moved dose to the low-rise buildings without penetrating them. In this way, the overall configuration of the different volumes could be kept dearly readable the way Eiermann wanted it.

From the earliest phase of planning the project Eiermann had toyed with the idea of a "Kelchhaus", a structure in the shape of a stemmed goblet. This "differentiated, lively, and unmistakable architectural shape" was developed, as Eiermann himself asserted, as a result of "the consideration and coordination of all external conditions and internal requirements."

With the Olivetti towers Egon Eiermann came up with a unique architectural shape that emphasized the corporate image of the Olivetti corporation and at the same time conformed with his own claim that any element of aesthetic expression needs tobe rooted in functional considerations: ideally, functional perfection would also give rise to aesthetic perfection.

Heidi Fischer

"Egon Eiermann 1904-1970. Architect and Designer", Ed. Annemarie Jaeggi, Hatje Cantz: Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, p. 213

Project-specific information

Project Administrative and training centre Deutsche Olivetti
Persons involved
  • Egon Eiermann (bis 1970) und "Planungsrguppe Olivett" Büro Rudolf Wiest (ab 1970), Architektur
  • Horstheinz Neuendorff, Fotografie
Project period 1967-1972

Object-specific information

  • Hochhaus
  • Albergo
  • Verwaltungshochhaus
  • Gästehochaus
  • Fluchttreppenturm
  • Kelchhochhaus
Typology Verwaltungsgebäude, administration buildings; Ausbildungszentrum, training centers

Site-specific information

Country Deutschland
City Frankfurt am Main