The Banknote and the Building: Architecting the ECB
Twenty years after the launch of the competition for the headquarters of the European Central Bank, this lecture sets out to retrace and discuss the complex process that, after the introduction of the Euro, engaged with the challenge of housing such unique, supranational form of power in Frankfurt. Part of a broader research project titled The Architecture of European Integration, this study has been carried out during the Fall quarter, thanks to a DAAD fellowship in the Architectures of Order cluster.
Within the new order generated by European integration, the ECB is the ordering institution par excellence, as its primary task is to ensure the stability of the Eurozone. The way it operates, however, does not fit into any traditional category. The ECB presides over the only currency that is not backed by a state – a currency that represents the most advanced example of supranationalization. Moreover, due to the far-reaching impact of monetary policy, the ECB has quickly come to play a key role in the political governance of the continent. During the debt crisis of the late 2000s, precisely as the project for its new headquarters got under way, one could argue that the ECB became the de facto government of the European Union. Its building therefore delineates an unprecedented, multifaceted space of power – one that not only strives for a new integration of finance and politics, but also aims to establish itself within the elusive domain of the supranational. Through research in the archive of the ECB, this study has been trying to explore how architecture addressed the uniquely difficult task of shaping and ordering such a complex institution, while, at the same time, being shaped and ordered by it.