Rhine-Main: Making Polycentricity Work?
With a worldwide reputation as leading European financial centre and international transportation hub, the city of Frankfurt frequently comes to stand for the larger heavily urbanized region in which it is embedded. Frankfurt’s concentration of banking prowess, symbolized visually in its skyscraper skyline and perpetuated linguistically in the city’s nicknames ‘Mainhattan’ and ‘Bankfurt’, has dominated the international perception of the Rhine-Main metropolitan region. Rhine-Main, however, is far more than just an appendix to the ‘global city’ Frankfurt. As Germany’s second largest urban agglomeration after RhineRuhr, the region is home to 4.2 million inhabitants, about 5 per cent of the country’s population, of which roughly one-third lives in one of its five major urban centres: Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Mainz, Darmstadt and Offenbach. Historically, these have developed independently as cities in a territorially fragmented region, a legacy which continues to be reflected in their distinctive economic profiles, competitive localism, and lack of regional identity among the population of Rhine-Main. Nevertheless, functional relations between the municipalities in the mega-city region (MCR) Rhine-Main (see Figure 13.1) have intensified ever since the onset of industrialization in the 19th century. Today, Rhine-Main is one of the most dynamic German metropolitan regions, competing with and complementing ten other ‘European Metropolitan Regions’, designated by the state’s coordinating body for spatial planning.1