Frankfurt Old City

The Reconstruction of Frankfurt Old City: A Historical Overview


Frankfurt, a city steeped in history, has endured destruction and rebirth over centuries. The focus of this article is the ongoing reconstruction of Frankfurt Old City, also known as “Altstadt,” and the role of German urban morphology studies in shaping its transformation. The city, known for its financial prowess and skyscrapers, once boasted one of Germany’s most exquisite Gothic centers, largely lost during World War II.

Frankfurt’s Historical Significance:

Frankfurt’s history dates back to ancient times, with evidence of settlement on the cathedral hill as early as 3000 BC. The city’s strategic location on the Main River, with its curve allowing for docklands and defense, has been central to its development. Archaeological excavations revealed a Roman military camp from around 83 AD, as well as a Merovingian king’s court. Charlemagne mentioned Frankfurt in a document in 794, and it became a significant royal palatinate and site of parliaments. In 1220, Frankfurt gained status as a free imperial city, and in 1356, it was declared the permanent choice for Roman kings.

World War II Destruction and Reconstruction:

The bombing raids by the Allies in 1944 devastated Frankfurt’s historic old town, destroying 80% of the area. This event led to the loss of the largest medieval city center in Germany. However, the resilience of the community is evident in their determination to rebuild. The reconstruction of German cities, including Frankfurt, occurred under British occupation between 1945 and 1949, a period marked by political instability and economic crisis. Despite the challenges, the city slowly rose from the rubble, transforming into viable, modern living spaces.

The Role of German Urban Morphology:

German urban morphology studies played a crucial role in guiding the reconstruction process. The ongoing Frankfurt Old City reconstruction project serves as a testament to the importance of these studies. The project aims to revitalize the old town quarter between the Römerberg square and the Frankfurt Cathedral, known as the Dom-Römer Project. It involves the construction of 35 buildings, including 15 reconstructions of former old town structures. The new designs reflect the historic urban form, plots, building sizes, and roof shapes, all influenced by morphological studies.

The significance of public participation in the urban morphological studies of Frankfurt’s old town is noteworthy. The project showcases the changing attitudes in architecture, planning, and urban design, moving away from sanitized visions of streets and buildings. The reconstruction of Frankfurt Altstadt has sparked differing opinions, with some favoring a complete reconstruction, while others express concerns about creating a “historic Disneyland.”


The reconstruction of Frankfurt Old City is a complex and ongoing process, shaped by historical context, urban planning, and the collective memory of its community. German urban morphology studies provide essential tools for understanding and assessing the planning, reconstruction, and design phases. The city’s rich history, from its ancient origins to its World War II destruction and subsequent rebirth, continues to influence its architectural and cultural identity.



Here are some links to information about Frankfurt’s history:
Frankfurt Altstadt Project
Frankfurt City History
History of Hesse, Germany
Planning Department of Frankfurt

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