Oper46: TOG’s ode to Frankfurt

Our newest opening is as much about recognising Frankfurt’s identity as it is creating a 21st Century workspace

Germany’s corporate capital is synonymous with two things — innovation and business acumen. Its skyline stands among Europe’s tallest and most imposing, and this is both testament to its status as the E.U.’s finance centre post-Brexit, and architectural evidence revealing the scale of change that has taken place here over the last 80 years.

Frankfurt’s dense glass and steel towers are visible from kilometres away, but the city centre is also home to more hidden icons, for example the Alte Oper. Opened in 1880, the town’s original opera house is a renaissance marvel and one of few heritage buildings that managed to survive World War II and the city’s dramatic rebuild. Just around the corner stands Rothschildpark, a peaceful expanse of greenery and playground to Bankenviertel, the city’s business district.

Between those two landmarks you’ll find The Office Group’s latest address – and first building outside of the UK. Respectfully dubbed Oper46, this striking new co-working and office space takes plenty of inspiration from the polish of its surrounds. Clever interior use of reflections and the open-plan ground floor help to bring shades of the outside in.

It’s here, at the large reception area, that the building’s design scheme really begins to make itself known – and where Oper’s most eye-catching feature, the Spanish Steps, take centre stage. The ideal spot for a casual catch-up or coffee break, tiered communal seating provides alternative access to the first floor and a clue as to how different parts of Oper46 are dedicated not just to different jobs, but also people, ways of working and businesses.

Look skywards to take in the central atrium’s full height. This vast light-well was always an asset to the building for obvious reasons, but care of TOG’s redesign with its crisp palette of bright whites and deep greys, it has never looked more spectacular. As elegant as the ash joinery used throughout Oper46, from here you can catch glimpse of breakout, meeting, open and private rooms on the levels above. The result is a tangible sense of varied activity and energy levels, inviting you to explore and discover independently.

“This might sound quite simple, but a key part of our work with The Office Group is ensuring you don’t need a complex way-finding exercise to know where you are in a building. So it’s easy to navigate in a way that’s very natural,” says Joshua Scott, Associate Director at dMFK Architecture, who worked with TOG’s design team on Oper46. He goes on to recount the confused combination of cellular partitions, annexes and inaccessible areas the address once suffered from.  

“It was quite a disjointed building and hard to navigate,” Scott continues. “Different bits were sub-tenanted and it was tough to reach parts. Our aim was to soften everything and connect the Alte Opera at the front of the building and Rothschildpark, the verdant space at the back. Before, when the office was so cellular you missed these once inside. Now, we’ve created a view at reception where you see all the way to the rear of the space.” This flow even runs into a light-filled cafe, where those calming views become yet more apparent.

“We went back and forth on how to connect the building to the city,” says Nasim Köerting, Head of Design at The Office Group, who tells me that Oper46 is as much about recognising Frankfurt’s identity as it is creating a 21st Century workspace. “Frankfurt is a corporate hub, but one that’s also entrepreneurial in spirit. A lot of the clients that have moved in already are innovative corporate companies, and brands like these always appreciate good art and design in offices – so the bar was set high.”

From early plans to opening, Oper46 has been a three-year project, during which time the world has changed dramatically. Among other things, the coronavirus pandemic created a revolving door of travel bans and lockdowns, meaning Köerting and Scott’s on-site visits became impossible for months, and even when restrictions eased trips were severely reduced. Despite such complications the project progressed as planned (a testament to the team involved) and has maintained TOG’s impeccable standard of overall finish.

“Germany is another level of build quality, which is great to work with,” Köerting says, before revealing she’s particularly proud of Oper’s decor. “We used some pretty wild colours. Frankfurt can be quite a reserved city, but we still picked some chic, bold shades for the building’s different spaces. The meeting rooms are all different colours, plus the lift lobbies, the quiet spaces and other cosy corners too. I’m really pleased with the selections we made.”

“The more jobs we do with The Office Group, the more we learn that choice is everything,” Scott replies when I ask for his thoughts on the expertise that has gone into making Oper46 so special. “Long gone are the days when you would sit at your desk and do everything. You want different environments for different things. And that’s one thing we are all missing with working from home, having options to move around and get our brains going. So that’s what we decided to do; create different spaces.”

Martin Guttridge-Hewitt edits Design Exchange Magazine, and also contributes to Vice, Mixmag and the BBC