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Revitilization of the central station forecourts

Topic:
Public space
District: Local district:
1
Size of area:
Zentraler Vorplatz und nördliche Seitenbereiche ca. 30.000 m²
Project management:

Ms. Barbara Gonder
Telefon: +49 (0)69 212 36151
Telefax: +49 (0)69 212 30731


Project description

Reason for planning
Each day, for some 450,000 passengers and visitors to the city, Frankfurt’s central railroad station is the first point of contact with the metropolis on the Main. Approx. 350 Deutsche Bahn long-distance trains arrive here on a daily basis; add to this: regional trains, LRTs and subways, streetcars and buses. Making Frankfurt central station the city’s key transport hub, but that’s not all: It is the city’s gateway and calling card.
Unfortunately, the station forecourt and the two plazas on either side of the complex no longer reflect the location’s significance. They are in urgent need of a makeover and require restructuring as regards functions and traffic flow.

Development district
The zone in question includes the station forecourt, which extends as far as Poststrasse in the north (see the attached PDF on the project). The majority of the sites are the property of DB AG.
The southern station forecourt, Mannheimer Strasse and the site to the south of the central station, which currently serves as a car park, will be addressed at a later stage in the planning process.

Planning objectives
The City of Frankfurt and Deutsche Bahn AG have joined forces in a move to revitalize the immediate surroundings of Frankfurt’s main station and give the “Gateway to the City” a new and attractive appearance. Together they held an urban design competition (
competition 2008-2009) to brainstorm ideas for the comprehensive redesign and its subsequent realization.
The insights gained from the competition will be realized step by step. The idea is to reorganize the different functions of the plaza and give it a clear and accessible structure with a welcoming look-and-feel that will meet the needs of everyone using the plaza.

Further steps/approach
In November 2013 a Letter of Intent on infrastructural changes envisaged for railroad stations operated by DB Station&Service AG was presented to the public in Frankfurt/Main. The forecourt of Frankfurt’s main station is one of the projects listed in the LOI.

The first step to the forecourt’s revitalization entails preliminary planning for the zone in front of the main entrance, the section adjacent to the north, and Poststrasse. schneider and schumacher architects have been awarded the contract to prepare the plans. Their competition entry lays the foundation for further planning. The municipal authorities approved the funding for the planning in May 2014.
Moreover, preliminary planning efforts shall serve to assess whether a relocation of the streetcar stop will indeed be feasible in the way it has been proposed in the competition.
Deutsche Bahn AG is currently planning the redesign of the central hall of the station, which involves removing the 1970s structures with a view to restoring the historical ambiance of the area. Basement zones that have not been accessible until now will be opened to forge new links between the various transport modes (LRT and subway) and create new sales areas. There are plans to restructure the underground pedestrian level in an effort to upgrade and revitalize it. Here, the aim is to close those entrances that are seldom used. It is hoped that eliminating a confusing array of narrow staircases will augment security and clarity in the layout, while opening up new possibilities in the spatial design.

The results of the preliminary planning will be published on this Website in due course.



PDF files relating to the project


  • Central station streetcar stop, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main
  • Poststrasse at the corner of Düsseldorfer Strasse, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main
  • Poststrasse with entrance to the underground car park, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main
  • Northern forecourt, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main
  • Central forecourt, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main

More informations

Competition 2008-2009

In 2008, together with DB Station&Service an interdisciplinary urban design competition for the revitalization of the station forecourts was held. The aim of the competition: to obtain a concept for this prime city center location that duly reflects the station’s significance in terms of space usage and design. The winning proposal needed to reflect all the different functions in the brief, in particular as regards the requirements made by the different modes of transportation and other operational procedures.
The competition covered the forecourt proper, Poststrasse, Mannheimer Strasse and the so-called “Campanile site” between Mannheimer Strasse and Pforzheimer Strasse.


Competition procedure

The competition was preceded by an EU-wide selection process. Following the selection of eight planning teams (each composed of architects, landscape designers, and traffic planners), two designs were shortlisted and fine-tuned in a second step in 2009. The two designs differ markedly in their approach to traffic management.
In preparation of a final decision on the winning design, the two proposals were analyzed in-depth to show how they would each impact on traffic flow.


The designs

The design submitted by the team from schneider+schumacher (s+s) envisaged moving the streetcar tracks and stops across the forecourts and thus closer to the station’s main entrance. The idea was to separate Poststrasse and Mannheimer Strasse from the through traffic on Düsseldorfer Strasse, Am Hauptbahnhof, and Basler Strasse. This way the northern and southern zones would be kept almost entirely car-free. The transport infrastructure relating to the station (including the “Hauptbahnhof-Nord” underground car park) would be accessed from the rear in order to open the forecourt out, giving it a spacious layout embellished by just a few select elements.

The design proposed by the team at TOPOTEK 1 (TOP) relocated the streetcar facilities to the east side of the station, with stops facing the Bahnhofsviertel district. The links to Poststrasse and Mannheimer Strasse remained intact, as did the access to the “Hauptbahnhof Nord” underground car park. There were plans for a new parking facility beneath one of the high-rises of the Campanile site (on the drawing board at the time of planning). Architecturally, the plaza took its cue from the Wilhelminian style station complex: a symmetrical layout with two fountains, candelabras, and intricate paving.


Civic participation 2009
An online participation process was held in July 2009 to give citizens the opportunity to comment on the shortlisted designs, ask questions, and make suggestions.

The online forum received 130 entries. Many of these were evidently submitted by people who come into contact with the station on a daily basis – be it as commuters or as residents of the district.
The proposals presented were debated critically, with many suggestions made on traffic functions as well as on the forecourt’s design and furnishings.
The online forum was not intended as a voting platform, which is why entries were not evaluated quantitatively, especially since such an evaluation cannot be representative.
However, in the course of further planning these suggestions will serve to draw attention to those issues that the citizens rate as important, enabling them to be included in the concept at an early stage.


Preliminary planning 2014

In 2013, the City and DB Station&Service agreed to split up the project and award the contract for the planning of the northern part in a first step. This zone includes the central forecourt in front of the main entrance, the plaza adjacent in the north, and Poststrasse. In June 2014, schneider+schumacher was awarded the contract to draw up the preliminary plans.
The planning ambit spans the design of the plazas including lighting, the revitalization of the junction at Poststrasse-Düsseldorfer Strasse, and the reorganization of the car parking facilities in the planning zone.

 


schneider+schumacher

Planners

Photo of the model, © schneider+schumacher Architektengesellschaft mbH, Frankfurt/lad+I landschaftsarchitektur, Hannover/BPR Beraten Planen Realisieren, Darmstadt

The following text describes the competition entry submitted by the planners at schneider+schumacher architects.
It forms the basis for the company being awarded the contract for the preliminary planning for the current planning zone.

Architects
schneider+schumacher Architekturgesellschaft mbH
Niddastraße 91
60329 Frankfurt/Main

Project team: Karlo Filipovic, Sven Müller, Daniel Wiedenkeller, Christina Barzen, Vita Redliha, Peter Knörr

Landscape architects
lad+ landschaftsarchitektur diekmann
Seestraße 12
30171 Hanover

Project team: Sabine Rabe, Binnca Däwes, Christine Sack

Engineers (traffic planning)
BPR Bernd F. Kühne & Partner
Elisabethenstraße 62
64283 Darmstadt


The planner’s central design concept

Perspectival view of the forecourt, © schneider+schumacher Architektengesellschaft mbH, Frankfurt/lad+I landschaftsarchitektur, Hannover/BPR Beraten Planen Realisieren, Darmstadt

“Our objective is to revitalize the station forecourt’s form and significance within the urban fabric. The architectural dimension of the station and its forecourt will serve to reflect their significance and function. (...) Together with the forecourt it [the station] creates the city’s first impression for train passengers – the “Gateway to the City”. The station’s mixed-use neighborhood therefore calls for a solution that will give the location a characteristic appeal and is readily comprehensible.”


Explanations on the proposal

Layout (not to scale), © schneider+schumacher Architektengesellschaft mbH, Frankfurt/lad+I landschaftsarchitektur, Hannover/BPR Beraten Planen Realisieren, Darmstadt

The revised proposal for the central station forecourt

The area in front of the station building will be kept almost entirely free, providing ample space for special activities such as market days or other such events, not to forget the outdoor eateries in front of the building. Only the streetcar stop will be positioned in the northern section of the square in the style of its original historical position. Differently sized and randomly arranged granite tiles from the Odenwald forest in differing color shades and interspersed with LED tiles will define the surface material and create the forecourt’s overall look.
The plaza will be illuminated by lamppost luminaires along the road and streetcar lanes; luminous tiles and façade lighting will provide decorative effects.
A water feature composed of several fountains will embellish the southern section of the central forecourt between the streetcar tracks and “Straße Am Hauptbahnhof”. The plan is to preserve the grove on the southern edge of the forecourt.
The sidewalk on the city side will be widened and lined with trees in an effort to create a promenade overlooking the plaza and outdoor eateries.
The proposal also envisaged the two forecourts on either side of the train station being accessible for car traffic from the west only and no longer connected to “Straße Am Hauptbahnhof”. As a result the side entrances to the concourse will have their own, mostly traffic-free plazas. Sufficient bicycle racks will be provided close to the side entrances.

 

Changes made to the competition entry / revised proposal:

The essential changes in the revised proposal compared to the competition entry are:

  • The streetcar stop in the center of the forecourt should be slightly removed from the station building. The width of the track lane will be reduced by locating the stops on the side and not having a central platform.
  • The planned patios in front of the main building will be replaced with ground-level hospitality facilities.
  • The skylights on the B level will be replaced with LED tiles integrated in the surface of the plaza; skylights remain as an option.

 

Excerpt from the jury’s verdict

(The jury’s verdict below is on the original competition entry)

“What makes this proposal stand out is the idea to separate Poststraße and Mannheimer Straße and thus create a generous plaza that will provide easy pedestrian access to and from the building with ample directions to roam in. At the same time, the intention is to emphasize the prominent building and its three entrances. The plaza will be effectively structured into different sections: a hospitality zone and an open space designed to host temporary events. A point of criticism here is the elevated terrace – having different levels seems problematic for reasons of logistics and monument preservation. That said, the jury expressly welcomes and supports the clear zoning and allocation of areas (hospitality, space for ideas). However, the plaza’s generous overall structure means that a number of traffic requirements cannot be sufficiently met. There are no barrier-free parking spaces and no taxi pull-ups designated on the central square, the taxi queuing areas specified are too small. The majority of short-term parking spaces will be located in the planned car parks, although there is no guarantee the latter will be realized.
In this context the jury is debating whether these shortcomings can be improved in line with specifications if they are addressed in detail; moreover it needs to be ascertained whether relocating the entrance to the underground car park in the northern section is indeed feasible both as regards traffic and costs. It remains questionable whether rerouting will not cause extra traffic with drivers trying to find their way around or whether an intelligent traffic guide system could in fact prevent this. The idea of using iridescent paving materials and introducing transparent areas for the illumination of the B level below is a moot point. The arguments that a grainy structure would reflect Frankfurt’s modern urban image and create a unique and memorable identity in connection with the lighting concept are countered by the unproven claim that these surfaces, both as regards installation and maintenance, are too expensive to finance. The idea of enhancing the B level’s ambience and conceptually linking it with the cityscape by means of lighting elements that are above and below the ground is regarded as unfeasible by some members of the jury as it would impede unrestrained use of the lower level. For the city level proof needs to be furnished that the luminaires are glare-free and commensurate with all security requirements.
Overall, this is a radical and very powerful approach that will certainly stir emotions during the assessment stage and will have a positive impact on people when embedded in the urban fabric. Its symbolism has the power to transform the location into a very special place while constantly changing embellishments would live up to the claim of creating a metropolitan, urban stage.”


Station forecourts in the north and south

Revised version of the proposal for the station forecourt in the north

Layout of the northern forecourt © schneider+schumacher Architektengesellschaft mbH, Frankfurt/lad+I landschaftsarchitektur, Hannover/BPR Beraten Planen Realisieren, Darmstadt

The forecourt in the north benefits from being separated from the car traffic on “Strasse Am Hauptbahnhof” as this creates a suitably sized plaza in front of the northern entrance, while still leaving enough space for taxi ranks and short-term parking spaces along with a Kiss&Ride facility and bicycle racks.
The existing entrance to the underground car park is relocated. The proposal: a new car park providing access to the existing underground car park built as a westward extension from the forecourt and parallel to the tracks. Car rental and car sharing spaces are also located there along with the corresponding services.


Revised version of the proposal for the station forecourt in the south

Layout of the southern forecourt, © schneider+schumacher Architektengesellschaft mbH, Frankfurt/lad+I landschaftsarchitektur, Hannover/BPR Beraten Planen Realisieren, Darmstadt

Likewise traffic-free, the eastern section of the southern forecourt accommodates a bus stop for passengers getting on an off along with further taxi ranks and short-term parking spaces as well as a Kiss&Ride facility and bicycle racks.
An additional car park is planned in the west, south of the tracks.
The new long-distance bus stop is located in the southern section of the “Campanile site”. A walkway connects the civic center between the high-rise in the north of the site and the tracks.
Moreover, there will be barrier-free access to the pedestrian tunnel, which in future also links the two urban districts. The pedestrian tunnel is refurbished and indoor bicycle parking facilities created in the former mail tunnel.