Blog: A Visit To Hamburg Hafencity

by | 07. Nov 2012


By Kirsten Kiser, Editor-In-Chief,

An architectural smorgasbord with few equals.


Photo courtesy HafenCity

Hamburg is reclaiming its long overlooked and underused industrial waterfront on the River Elbe with the development of HafenCity, currently the largest urban construction initiative under way in Europe. The 380 acre redevelopment zone will be a mix of office, retail, residential, and cultural uses.
There will be no shopping malls and the exact location of subway and bus stops was a matter of intense planning, as was the ratio of footpaths to roads. There will be five kilometers of road to 10 kilometers of footpaths with only 30 percent of the footpaths next to the streets. Pedestrians will use the other 70 percent to get around away from the roads.

When completed sometime around 2020, the district will have increased the size of the city center by 40 percent. A total of 19.4 million square feet of new construction is being planned, and much of it is being designed by a constellation of international starchitects.


Photo: arcspace

Rem Koolhaas/OMA’s 23,000 square meter ring-shaped structure, formed of ten modular interlinked blocks, will house a science centre and aquarium, as well as a theaters, offices, laboratories, commercial and retail facilities.
Part of the building, approximately 8,500 square meters, will be located underground with a large part of this space being taken up by the aquarium. Above ground, terraces on various levels of the building will provide panoramic views across the city.
The design is a further development of the winning scheme designed by OMA in 2004.


Photo © OMA


Photo © OMA

Henning Larsen Architects won the competition to design the 50,000 square meter new headquarters for the Spiegel Group. The project, designed with emphasis on sustainability, is comprised of two U-shaped buildings, inspired by sailing ships, the white paper and light.
The buildings create two plazas, an arrival plaza towards Brooktorkai, and a plaza connecting to the harbor promenade.


Photo © Henning Larsen ArchitectsThe building will be completed in 2010 at the same time as Hamburg’s new Elbe Philharmonic Hall, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, at the other end of HafenCity.

This cultural centerpiece of HafenCity, the Elbe Philharmonic Hall (Elbphilharmonie) incorporates two distinct elements: a preexisting brick warehouse and a new crystalline tent-like structure that seems to float above the industrial base.
Sited at the tip of a promontory that juts into the river harbor, this 120,000 square meters development will include not only a new home for Hamburg’s NDR (North German Radio) Symphony Orchestra, but also a luxury hotel, residential apartments, conference center, wellness area, the Klingendes Museum (music museum for children), restaurants, nightclubs, and parking.


Photo © Herzog & de Meuron


Photo © Herzog & de Meuron

Behnisch Architekten is designing the German headquarters for the Unilever Group and the adjacent residential tower. The design, an organic yet sculptural form, creates a distinctive architectural fusion.

The new HafenCity University (HCU), designed by Code Unique, will be shaped like two wings. Both parts of the structure will be located on a waterfront square with the lobby placed between them. The design includes provision for a café and restaurant, both facing the water.
The design is now undergoing further development.


Photo © Code Unique

The Hamburg Cruise Center, designed by Renner Hainke Wirth, the roof by architectural engineer Werner Sobek, is the gateway to Hamburg city centre for passengers from all over the world.
The architectural idea behind the 1,200 square meter arrivals hall is two familiar seagoing elements – the container and the sail – that been ingeniously combined. The walls are made of stacked multicolored freight containers and topped with a dynamically shaped sail-like roof.

While the main role of the Hamburg Cruise Center is to handle cruiseships, various different types of events and functions for up to 800 people can be held there outside the cruising season.


Photo © Gebler

Massimiliano Fuksas is designing a dramatic new 34,000 square meter Cruise Center and hotel.


Illustration: Michael Behrendt


Illustration: Michael Behrendt

Between The Science Center and the new Cruise Center are two freestanding buildings by Erick van Egeraat.

400,000 people were in HafenCity to welcome the Queen Mary II that will be a future hotel docked at at the River Elbe.


Photo courtesy HafenCity

The Katharinen school next to Katharinen church, designed by Spengler and Wiescholek, will be completed in the Spring of 2009.
The elementary school and daycare facility is reachable on foot across the park for many children. The classrooms face the park and, in addition to the fully developed sub areas on the school grounds, the park can also be used for school activities.
One ambition of the school is to open its doors towards the district and to offer use of its own rooms in the evening, to different groups and activities from the district including a generously designed sports hall.


Photo © Spengler and Wiescholek

The 25.4 acre Overseas Quarter (Überseequartier), planned as the centerpiece, will eventually become 16 brand new buildings with 275,000 square meters of living, office and shop space. This is also where many of the world’s premier architects will have license to play.
Many of the residential buildings, placed on concrete pilotis to create walkways along the waterfront and allow for the inevitable flooding, have already been completed. Landscaping by Miralles/Tagliabue.


Photo © Miralles/Tagliabue


Photo © Miralles/Tagliabue


Photo © Miralles/Tagliabue

The historic Kaispeicher B, the oldest warehouse in Hamburg’s HafenCity district, will house the International Maritime Museum of Hamburg. Scheduled for completion in 2008 the building will contain11,500 square meters of exhibition space on 10 floors.
Reconstruction of the 1879 building, with the building’s distinctive architecture remaining untouched, has been going on since the middle of 2005

With two highlights, the International Maritime Museum in Kaispeicher B and the restored Gebrüder Heinemann building a multifaceted and vibrant area is emerging between Magdeburger Hafen to the west, Brooktorhafen to the north and the planned Lohsepark to the east. The quarter will be characterised by its HafenCity University, by museums and exhibitions, by the juxtaposition of historic and modern buildings, and by its proximity to the buzzing Überseequartier district.


Photo © Elbe & Flut

Visitors crossing the new Museumsbrücke bridge will be able to stroll through the ground floor mall of the International Maritime Museum and all the way down the Magdeburger Hafen promenade. The ground floors of the three buildings adjacent to the footpath will be open plan, with cafés, small shops and art galleries. The project includes plans for a House of Design, providing offices, living and working lofts as well as exhibition space.

HafenCity’s second partial area, Dalmannkai, is comprised of a unique mix of residential properties varying in size, locational quality and concept, for both rent or purchase, to meet different residential needs, particularly those of families.
The first occupants moved into the first building in the summer of 2006, the first shop, Harbour Tobacco, opened its doors in July 2007, immediately followed by Feinkost HafenCity, a delicatessen, with more on the way.
The restaurants Kaisers and Kaiserperle have opened and the Dalmannkai Steps, four grass levels gradually descending into the water, the second area landscaped by Miralles/Tagliabue.


Photo © Miralles/Tagliabue


Photo © Miralles/Tagliabue

Even at this early stage, approximately 40 children, especially small children, live in HafenCity.

Rental apartments and condominiums will be built, and joint building ventures and cooperative building associations are implementing their ideas and projects.

And there is one thing that all of Dalmannkai’s apartments will have in common: every unit has a view of the water.

HafenCity will be linked to the public transport system by two new underground stops on the U4 Line. The Überseequartier station will give the feeling of being inside the new auqarium.


Photo courtesy HafenCity

The conversion of areas previously used for dock-related activities will result in a number of positive effects, both ecological and in terms of the future urban development of Hamburg. Economical use of energy will be a key factor in order to reduce climate-changing influences to a minimum. Every effort will be made to incorporate sustainability and all opportunities for saving natural resources in the production of energy will be exploited.
The consistent use of environmentally compatible building materials will playing an important role.

More information: HafenCity website.

Stay at East Hotel in close proximity to HafenCity.