When the IG Farben-Haus was built in 1931 for a chemical conglomerate, it was one of the world’s largest office buildings. Today it is used by the Goethe University.
The IG Farben-Haus was built as the administrative headquarters of the IG Farbenindustrie AG, a large chemical conglomerate.
The colossal building is also known as the Poelzigbau (Poelzig Building) after the designer of the building, Hans Poelzig. Poelzig created a monumental, 240 meter (787 ft) wide arc-shaped structure with six intersecting wings, one for each of the six companies that formed the conglomerate: Agfa, BASF, Bayer, Cassella, Höchst and Kalle. Construction started in 1928 and the IG Farben-Haus opened in 1931 as Europe’s largest office building.
The concrete structure has a steel frame and travertine cladding. The well-proportioned building was designed by Poelzig in the so-called ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’ (New Objectivity) style, a local architectural style that championed a business-like functional design with little or no ornamentation.
IG Farben is now best known as the company behind Zyklon B, a cyanide-based pesticide used during the Holocaust by the Nazi regime in the gas chambers of the concentration camps. The company even had its own labor camp, Buna-Monowitz, also known as Auschwitz III-Monowitz. Most of those who worked at the camp were murdered.
In 2008 the Wollheim Memorial was unveiled to commemorate the victims of the camp. The memorial, a small pavilion with info panels, was named after Norbert Wollheim, a survivor of Buna-Monowitz. Wollheim was the first to sue the conglomerate after the war. The large number on the pavilion was his prisoner number.
At the end of the Second World War, the building became the administrative headquarters of General Eisenhower. The US Armed forces continued to use the IG Farbenhaus throughout the Cold War, when the building was dubbed the Pentagon of Europe.
After the Americans left in the mid 1990s, the building was developed into the center of the new Westend Campus of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, one of the largest universities in Germany.