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Hamburg. Living on the Water

In 2013 Hamburg completed the transformation of the island of Elbinsel to host the 2013 Hamburg International Building Exhibition, IBA, and the International Garden Show. These venues were the triggers for the development strategy known as the “Sprung über die Elbe” - the leap over the Elbe - a physical and cultural leap pushing the city beyond the long-standing barrier of the north branch of the river Elbe that has always been the city’s southern boundary. Locating the IBA on the vast watery reaches of Elbinsel, one of the Elbe Islands, has given a further thrust to the expansion of the city following hard on the heels of the extraordinary development of its old port area, HafenCity. This now famous project to build a contemporary city in Hamburg’s former docklands is one of Europe’s largest and most successful urban redevelopment programmes. Today Hamburg’s ambition to be a great European metropolis is based on these two new districts: one already successfully up and running, the other in a more embryonic phase.
For decades the German IBA has been a regular feature on the international architecture and urbanism tradeshow agenda. The 1987 Berlin edition was a major focus and seminal event for a generation of architects. Planning for the 2013 Hamburg IBA got underway in 2006 with the choice of the Elbsinel site. The tradeshow focuses on three key issues for the metropolis of the future: Cities and Climate Change; Cosmopolis; and Metrozones. Some 60 projects explore a range of themes going from new buildings and neighbourhoods to cultural and educational projects in which specialists take on key issues like transition areas or “inner peripheries”, here called “Metrozones”, part of greater Hamburg just as they are in other metropolitan areas.
In keeping with the exhibition theme, this island on the Elbe is a large fragmented area, partly still farmland and partly already urbanised. Port...

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