Legend under transformation

Refurbishing the property was a major challenge. Working hand in hand with experts to comply with the standards for the protection of historical monuments, we were able to stop the decay and restore the villa back to its original state. Our image gallery documents the building’s transformation between its purchase in 2012 and when it opened its doors in 2018.

The result is amazing

The refurbishment of the Bockenheimer Landstrasse 102 property transformed the building from its dilapidated state into a neighbourhood jewel. The restored cultural monument also integrates state-of-the-art technologies to make Villa 102 virtually unique in Frankfurt with its museum-like quality. But the path to the final result was not an easy one. From the start of refurbishment work in 2014 to the property’s completion in 2018, the building repeatedly faced new construction and organisational challenges. The facade initially hid the countless changes and additions that had been made to the original building throughout its nearly century-long history. However, despite its age, its many previous owners, commercial use and building elements that had been added over the years, the villa still contains a good deal of valuable historical substance. KfW fully preserved this substance

Challenging conversion

After its purchase in 2012 and prior to the beginning of its refurbishment, the cultural monument built in 1912/13 went through an extensive stock-taking process. Throughout the restoration, KfW closely coordinated with the office responsible for protection of historical monuments, which was actively involved. KfW was aware of its responsibility to maintain the cultural heritage of the city and complied with all requirements for the preservation of historical monuments. However, it was repeatedly necessary to measure the design plans against reality as much of the building’s original historic substance held several surprises, some of which only became apparent once the plaster was removed. For instance, one spot was missing steel beams; unexpected and unfamiliar anchoring fixtures were discovered elsewhere. The planners were repeatedly forced to come up with creative solutions.

It was necessary to reconcile conflicting priorities between the requirements for protecting historical monuments, safety, planned usage and energy efficiency. Even though energy-efficiency was not necessarily a requirement, KfW strove to refurbish the building to be as energy-efficient as possible in line with its global promotion of environmental protection and climate action. The extreme to which these aspects competed with the protection of historical monuments became apparent during the processes of refurbishing the windows, for example. The final result is now a compromise between both aspects and, instead of triple glazed windows, the windows are double-paned to remain as true to the historical original as possible.

Modern interpretation

Despite being based on the original state of the building, after its refurbishment, Villa 102 no longer looks like it did during its most famous era as a “Literaturhaus”, or literature house. As a function of its planned use, the building has lost much of its residential character. For instance, it was impossible to reconstruct the historical wallpapers. However, there were remaining fragments, which were used as a point of orientation for the current wall paint. As in the rest of the villa, the colour concept is a modern interpretation developed together with the office for the protection of historic monuments. The furnishings are also designed along these lines. They are envisaged as basic furnishings which can be used flexibly for events, and discreet modern lighting sets them in the right light. With this interior design, the villa’s reception rooms provide the atmosphere for all sorts of cultural and dialogue events.

But before the refurbishment work got this far, there was much to do. Initially, hazardous substances had to be removed and a new connecting structure had to be built below ground. This structure connects to the underground car park for the newly built KfW building in Bockenheimer Landstrasse 104 and acts as a basement expansion to house technical systems, which include a new ventilation and cooling system, and sanitary facilities. In order to comply with fire protection regulations, guest attendance at villa events is limited to a maximum of 199 people. Particularly valuable historical surfaces like stucco ceilings were carefully exposed; paint was removed layer by layer and restored. Window openings that had been sealed at a later point in the building’s history were restored, and the enclosed balcony, which had been converted into an office, was reconstructed. Returned to its open state, it now invites guests to linger again. A new outdoor staircase improves access to the grounds from the terrace. Features like a new passenger lift, which can transport people from the basement to each level up to the second floor, ensure extensive accessibility.

The reconstructed secondary staircase previously for use by the servants also extends up to that level. In future, internal training courses will be held in what used to serve as the servant’s wing. The attic above contains one of the two separate ventilation facilities. The enormous requirements for the future use of the building make these measures necessary. While the ventilation facility in the connecting structure ventilates the rooms up to the first floor, the facility in the attic is responsible for the training rooms on the second floor. As a whole, the villa contains nearly as much technology as a new construction. But the technology is hidden in order to avoid disturbing the historical character of the house. Access to the electronics controls are concealed in the historical built-in wardrobes. Electrical sockets and media connections are hidden in the skirting boards, and speakers are masked by the wood panelling.

Stations on the refurbishment journey

  • 2012: Acquisition by KfW Group
  • 2013: KfW Stiftung events; tender and commissioning of general planning (architects Schneider+Schumacher and CSZ Ingenieurconsult GmbH); meetings with the office for the protection of historical monuments; building permit for shell and underground construction
  • 2014: Tendering and begin of refurbishment (shell construction, underground construction, connecting structure, basement expansion); building permit for the most important measures in the existing historical building
  • 2015: Removal of hazardous materials; conclusion of underground construction and work on the connecting structure and basement expansion; work on the shell construction, the roof and the facade
  • 2016: Conclusion of shell construction; installation of a passenger lift and a freight lift; installation work; restoration of the historical wood, plaster and metal elements begins, masonry installation begins
  • 2017: Completion of work on the roof and the facade; conclusion of masonry installation work, restoration of the historical plaster and metal elements completed, work on the parquet flooring begins
  • 2018: Completion of work on the parquet flooring; conclusion of restoration of historical wood elements; final installation stage is completed, interior construction; landscaping; technical systems begin operation; inspection, testing the technical equipment, rectification of faults, acceptance; furnishing; transfer of the completely refurbished building and start of use.

Specialists at work

Many parts of the building, walls and floors had been changed significantly in past decades. As well as the original existing building, there were also obscured, ruined and partially destroyed surfaces. KfW repeatedly called in specialists. For example, many layers of paint had been applied to the wood panelling in an inexpert fashion that had nothing to do with the original state. Carpenters trained in historical work took on the painstaking job of treating the wood surfaces. The core of the stucco ceilings was in good condition, but they also had to be similarly restored. A stucco plasterer with experience in historical restoration work only made a few improvements. Masons familiar with historical materials also had a good deal of work repairing and cleaning the natural stone elements on the facade and replacing damaged sections.

The time schedule was turned upside down several times; KfW’s planners dealt with one surprise after another. Despite all of the difficulties, they and their partners always found a way. This impressive result was only possible because everyone worked hand in hand. With the completion of this work, Villa 102 has become a platform for dialogue and culture, the headquarters of KfW Stiftung and the jewel of KfW’s buildings in Frankfurt. In particular, the staff benefits from the building as a modern training centre and a garden that feels like a park.