Frankfurt, Germany, mostly destroyed in World War II, has been rebuilt with vigor and imagination, and is now a thriving center of commerce and creativity. While a number of historic buildings were rebuilt in their original style, postmodern architecture has played a central role in creating the Frankfurt we see today. I especially like the simplicity of style of the Hobeinsteg pedestrian bridge, with its clean and uncluttered appearance.
I also appreciate the effect of the bridges’ two arches: the arch of the deck and the arch of the main support cables. The 210-meter-long footbridge over the river Main connects the museum mile (Sachsenhausen district) with the Bahnhofsviertel (central station district). The suspension bridge, which opened in 1990, was designed by the urban planner and architect Albert Speer Jr.
Wherever I travel, it is a pleasure to contemplate and photograph the architecture around me. Frankfurt provided me with ample opportunity–and a number of subjects–for my camera. Here are four of them.
Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof
If you take the train to Frankfurt you will most likely arrive at the city’s central train station, one of the busiest railway terminals in Germany. I like the commanding effect of five large curved roofs arching over the neoclassical building, and the use of translucent panels to light the large space. The station, which opened in 1888, was designed by Johann Wilhelm Schwedler and Hermann Eggert.
Bockenheimer Warte U Bahn station
While researching interesting places to photograph in Frankfurt, I came across a description of the Bockenheimer Warte U Bahn station entrance, as a tram car that has crashed out of the underground. I said “I must find this and photograph it.” I was not disappointed, as it has several interesting angles and backgrounds that can be used to show it off to great advantage. The station, which opened in 1986, was designed by architect Zbigniew Peter Pininski, who credited the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte with his inspiration.
When I have the luxury of time I like to “work the subject” of an object or building such as this one, walking around it and photographing its different aspects. This enables me to take advantage of different lighting and backgrounds, something that is not always possible when photographing large buildings.
Anita and I stayed in the 25hours Hotel by Levi’s, and had a superb view of the post-modern Westendstrasse 1 (part of DZ bank headquarters) from our room. The perspective emphasizes the height of the building (208 meters) and a night shot, the crown. The ring beam at the top serves as a reminder of Frankfurt’s history as a center of empire and the coronation of German rulers at the Frankfurt Cathedral. The decorative crown weighs 95 tons and is heated in winter to prevent the formation of icicles. The building was designed by architect William Pedersen, and opened in 1993.
Saalgasse (Saal Lane)
Seven narrow postmodern buildings were built on Saalgasse in the 1980s, each one designed by a different architect. The designs contrast sharply with the half-timbered buildings of the historic Römerberg nearby, but some elements of the facades could easily have been inspired by the original buildings from the Middle Ages, here until the fire-bombing of World War II. The narrow street makes capturing all seven buildings in one photo a challenge, but supplementing the overview with an image of each building and its interesting details brings everything together.
When photographing architectural subjects, I generally use an aperture of f5.6 or greater to give a large depth of field (the distance between the nearest and the furthest objects that are in clear focus), because I want to have both the subject and background in focus. For capturing architectural elements, I may use a shallower depth of field to focus the viewer’s eye on the detail.
I try to achieve a consistent look by using the same processing on each photo, captured with Nikon hardware and in RAW (an uncompressed format). When RAW images come out of the camera they are a little flatter than photos shot in JPG format (the format used in most phones and many point and shoot cameras). Because of this, I process the photos using Adobe LightRoom. For travel photos, I try to stay true to the color and exposure at the time of capture, which generally means limiting the processing.
What about you?
Have you been to Frankfurt am Main? What is your favorite architectural element there?
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