A new part of Hamburg is springing up between the old town centre, the Speicherstadt district and the river Elbe. HafenCity Hamburg is one of the most extensive and significant development plans in any European city centre at present time: not only its span (nearly 400 acres) but the nature of the site and the principles informing the masterplan and architectural projects various.
The challenge is to inject life into another segment of urban landscape. It must take its scale and main modes of development from the historical town. It must share the complexity of greater Hamburg’s many jostling functions. And it calls for richly varied architectural planning.
The site is a splendid one. HafenCity is less than a kilometre from Hamburg Town Hall. One can comfortably walk to the city centre with its museums, railway station and sundry services. The vicinity of the centre will make HafenCity a useful resource for townsfolk from the rest of Hamburg, while the ten new kilometres of waterfront on the Elbe will serve to reunite the whole town with its riverside.
Divided into 13 different quartiers, HafenCity today is partly built and inhabited, partly a building site, and partly still on the drawing board. Development is scheduled to go on until 2020-2025. When work is completed the centre of Hamburg will have grown by 40%.
The Sandtorkai quarter, finished in 2004, and the Dalmannkai, which is on the way to completion, are already showing enough signs of life for us to gauge the success of the operation. It is the Überseequartier where most of the work is concentrated at the moment, with buildings rising in its northern part. In the intentions of the masterplan the Überseequartier is to be the nerve centre of HafenCity. It stands at the intersection of east-west/north-south arteries. It covers an area of twenty acres and buildings will actually stand on 270.000 sq m. Its urban axis will run parallel to the Magdeburger Hafen, with tentacles of development stretching towards the Elbe to form a close link with the spectacular riverside development.
A man-sized corner of the city, connected to the old centre and reaching out towards the Elbe. A place where you live, work, go shopping, use recreational or cultural facilities.
To help fulfil these ambitious expectations, precise guidelines have been set as to the constructional area, end-users and allocation of space. In developing the Überseequartier the key word is diversity. Most of the buildings planned are restricted to six or seven storeys in order to blend with heights in the old town. The compact block layout with inside courtyards mirrors the building density of neighbouring downtown. Only a few key spots and panoramic sites will be allowed taller buildings to act as belvederes, new landmarks on the urban skyline. The plan is for an even mix of functions, making for complexity and a livable feel at all hours of day and night. There will be homes, offices, commercial areas, cultural and recreational facilities to entertain the quarter’s residents and workers, along with other Hamburg inhabitants and tourists. Once completed, the Überseequartier is expected to attract over ten million visitors a year from Germany and elsewhere.
Commerce is here conceived as a network of individual enterprises. Large commercial centres were ruled out from the word go, so as to revive the traditional European pattern of diffuse trade. Commercial and catering enterprises will tend to be at ground level along streets or around squares and will face onto open spaces with gaps left towards the waterfront.
Planning the outdoor areas in the Überseequartier, including the Magdeburger Hafen, has been allotted to the Catalan firm of BB+GG. The express brief of the project is to give the quartier’s central boulevard and clustering squares the feeling of places in which to linger and socialise. The differing character of the various sites and the contrast between their façades onto the main thoroughfare and the glimpses of Magdeburger Hafen and Sandtorpark - open-closed, continuous-interrupted, ancient-modern - will tend to be unified by the way the outdoor areas are laid out. The decision to keep the same paving materials and urban fixtures throughout individual neighbourhoods in the quartier will ensure a thread of continuity being felt amid the architectural diversity.
Once particular resource enhancing the Überseequartier is to be the Hamburg Maritime Centre, designed by OMA, standing at the spectacular junction of the Magdeburger Hafen with the Elbe. There will also be Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas’ Hamburg Cruise Centre, a complex including a deluxe hotel, a cruiser terminal and the bus station.
Another quarter now under construction is Am Sandtorpark, the stretch between Überseequartier and the Sandtorhafen. This is to be a broad swathe of greenery, ringed by offices and residential accommodation. Planning this area forms part of the more general mandate covering all the open public spaces of West HafenCity allotted to the practice of EMBT from Barcelona. The district also includes the Katharinenschule, a primary school catering for children throughout the day and even outside school hours.
The first group of buildings at Strandkai has been on site since mid 2007. This is an attractively sited complex designed by Behnisch Architekten and including a 55-metre residential tower and the Unilever headquarters which house 1.100 office staff. Some important other company headquarters are situated in the Brooktorkai with its maritime atmosphere. It is encircled by the historical brick buildings of Speicherstadt, Brooktorhafen and the waterway junction to the Holländischbrookfleet canal.
On its southern side stands the famous Kaispeicher B building, the oldest department store in HafenCity and Speicherstadt. Here the Germanischer Lloyd headquarters is going up, catering for 2000 staff, and that of Spiegel Publishers which began building work on the Ericusspitze in summer 2008. As of 2010, its Hamburg offices will move there and occupy a surface area of some 30.000 sq m. The nearby Ericus-Contor office block is the innovative brainchild of Henning Larsen from Copenhagen.