City Stories: Medienhafen

In order to best appreciate the beauty of Frank Gehry’s three architectural designs at Medienhafen, you should time your visit for sunset. As the sun sinks, the buildings begin to shimmer, reflecting the light and colours of the sky like fish scales, or perhaps waves or…

Frank Gehry’s designs defy an ordinary architectural reading. They do not conform to the symmetrical standards we have come to expect from urban buildings. Instead, windows are juxtaposed against walls, rounded edges snub the need for corners, and rooftops funnel towards the sky.

Completed in 1999 the three buildings, known as Neuer Zollhof, are at the heart of the city’s waterfront redevelopment. Just as Gehry’s design for the Guggenheim Museum had done in Bilbao, Spain the year before, the Medienhafen building’s brought an artist’s flair to what was once a run down urban precinct and a new lease of life to this corner of the city.

Where previously, this bend in the river reflected the decline in the city’s port status, Medienhafen is now home to luxury hotels, five star restaurants, commercial properties and prime accommodation, and is a key tourist attraction for the city. Such is its popularity, that in 2007 a popular vote saw its inclusion on the Germany edition of Monopoly. At only 1.4 million Euros, the Monopoly version is clearly a bargain!


On the opposite side of Medienhafen, the “Flossis” climb across a building façade. Created for a 1998 exhibition, by Stuttgart-based artist, Rosalie to celebrate the opening of the German Plastics Museum, these climbing creatures won hearts with their daring escapades at the NRW Forum. After the exhibition closed in 1999 a more permanent home was sought and, with the timely arrival of some financial support, it was agreed that the Flossis would forever call Düsseldorf home.

Twenty-nine of the Flossis, as the figures are known (apparently because the German word for ‘flipper’ is ‘flosse’), currently adorn the walls of a business incubator in the recently redeveloped Medienhafen. Last year it was announced that due to their weight, the Flossis would have to be removed, however, rumour has it that instead of disappearing from the skyline, they will instead be replicated in a lighter fabric and reinstalled.

It makes me very happy to think that ambitious entrepreneurs are turning up on the doorstep of a building covered with exuberant climbing creatures who do not let social conventions, gravity (weight) or a lack of clothes, get in the way of reaching their goals.