Golden Scales Coffee House

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Golden Scales Coffee House

Medieval gem with a modern use

Medieval times are often referred to as the Dark Ages – in Frankfurt am Main, however, you can marvel at the splendid side of the middle ages. The opulent, half-timbered, Golden Scales Coffee House is part of the reconstruction of the old town undertaken in recent years. During the historically faithful reconstruction, attention was paid to every detail. This includes not only the innumerable elements of the façade ornamentation but also the use of historical building materials such as clay earth. Inside, they had a freer hand. Use and technology were adapted to current standards – whereby the building material clay earth also proved its worth.

True-to-the-original reconstruction – in a rebuilt Old Town

Frankfurt’s old town was largely destroyed during World War II. In the 1970s, the Technical Town Hall was built on the site. Now the historic city structure is being restored – with a mixture of modern buildings built in the medieval style and reconstructions built true to the originals.

The half-timbered Golden Scales Coffee House is one of the reconstructed buildings. The wealthy Dutch confectioner and spice trader Abraham von Hameln had it built in 1619 as a representative residential and trading house. The architectural firm Jourdan & Müller Steinhausen reconstructed the building using old photos and drawings.

Historical building materials – for a modern reconstruction

The reconstruction took the term “detail-oriented” literally. Flowers, leaves and fruits entwine along the wooden framework. Colourfully painted Greek gods and biblical figures look down on you. Of course, the golden scales that give the building its name are not absent. In addition, there is gilded ornamentation and carving in the wood timbering itself.

Not only the design is true to the original. Centuries-old oak beams were used for the half-timber framework. The frames were filled with earthen-clay bricks, just as they were in the days of the original construction. The interior walls were plastered with clay earth.

New use – with reference to the first builder

But the half-timbered house is not a 1:1 copy. Too much was lost or no longer in keeping with the times. It is a so-called creative reconstruction. For example, the modern heating technology, done with in-wall heating integrated into the clay plaster, is new.

Today, the upper floors house a museum where you can experience the reality of life in the Middle Ages when the original house was built. On the ground floor, a café invites you to linger – fittingly in the former home of a confectioner. Here you will discover colourful ceiling paintings. It is known that the ceilings were also painted in the original, but no documentation on what these paintings looked like was available. So, unlike the façade, the paintings were not recreated but designed by contemporary artists. This way, history not only comes alive – but evolves and remains relevant.

Photos ©DomRömer GmbH/Uwe Dettmar

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Clay Highlight:

Intelligent building materials – Clay-earth building materials from Claytec

Timber framework filled in with earthen-clay bricks is one of the most common historical framework-construction styles. It not only uses locally available materials but also makes sense from a building physics point of view. The clay earth regulates the moisture in the construction and thus protects the wood.

These properties make wood and clay earth an intelligent combination even today. For the reconstruction of the Golden Scales Coffee House, almost 5,000 clay blocks in two different densities were used.

The combination of earthen-clay plaster and in-wall heating is also ideal and contemporary. The heat-retaining properties of clay earth mean pleasant radiant heat is given off slowly and evenly. This not only warms comfortably but also helps people with allergies, as there is no movement of air to stir up dust.


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