No. 18 . 13 September 2000 
ArchitectureWeek
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Illuminating Foster

by ArchitectureWeek

The young German artist Thomas Emde, whose medium is light and color, has just added a finishing touch to a major building by Norman Foster. The Commerzbank tower in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, is said to be the world's first "ecological high-rise." With Emde's light installation, the special characteristics of the building are now as visible at night as they are during the day.

The 53-story, 1000-foot (300-meter) tower, the highest office building in Europe, is triangular in plan. It features a central atrium that penetrates its entire height and four-story gardens that spiral around the perimeter.

Pairs of vertical masts, enclosing the corner cores, support eight-story Vierendeel trusses, which in turn support clear-span office floors. Not only are there no columns within the offices, but the Vierendeels also enable the gardens to be totally free of structure.

These gardens provide green views for the office workers and, in conjunction with the atrium, create natural ventilation for the entire building. From a distance, the gardens give the tower an impression of transparency.

It was this transparency that the award-winning Emde wished to emphasize in his lighting design. To this end, he installed indirect lighting in the gardens that gives them a distinctive, warm, yellow glow at night. He also uplit the upper facades of the building to accentuate the tower's verticality. The result has transformed the skyline of Frankfurt.

His studio, Blendwork, is a unique group of four professionals: The creative artist Emde, Peter Fischer, an art historian and project manager, Gunther Hecker, light designer, and Ralf Teuwen, light planning manager.  

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