City Stories: Telling The Time on the Rhein

When the idea of building a telecommunications tower on the Rhine was first mooted back in 1913, it was perhaps motivated by a degree of Eiffel Tower envy. Despite the initial enthusiasm for the project, however, it would be another sixty-six years before work on a tower would begin.

The initial sketches of the tower proposed a construction akin to that of its French cousin and built primarily of steel. While architect Harald Deilman’s design did call for 1,100 tonnes of reinforced steel, he added an additional 7,500 cubic metres of concrete: all the better to support the 240 metre high structure that in addition to its broadcast duties would also include a viewing platform a revolving restaurant, and, more recently, the nest of a pair of peregrine falcons. The latter having apparently played a major role in the falcons’ return from near extinction.

While the Rheinturm cannot claim to be be amongst the tallest towers in the world, it does have bragging rights for housing the world’s largest digital clock. Running down one side of the tower, Lichtzeitpegel, designed by artist, Horst H. Baumann features thirty-nine portals that are lit in varying combinations to mark time in twenty-four hour format. An additional twenty-three lights separate the hours, minutes and seconds. By day the clock is useful and unique by night it is a stunning addition to the Rhine skyline.