Hamburg Hafencity and IBA 2013 New Urbanity for a Diverse City

View of the Niederbaumbrücke, approx. 1880
View of the Niederbaumbrücke, approx. 1880 | Photo (detail): Georg Koppmann, public domain

With Hafencity and the Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) 2013, new concepts of sustainability in urban planning have been realised in Hamburg.

Hamburg’s concept for the new Hafencity is a sophisticated and ambitious plan for expanding the Hanseatic city in its urban centre, and to render it fit for a green future. Factors taken into consideration are building sustainability through five levels of resource efficiency, an expanded heat energy supply through technologically neutral and distributed systems, regenerative energy sources, CO2 benchmarking, and a concentrated mobility structure as well as a remixing of urban structure with surface conversion.

Europe’s largest inner-city development project

Starting in 2001, the inner-city harbour edge has been rezoned on the basis of the “Masterplan” by Kees Christiaanse / ASTOC approved by the Senate in 2000. An expansion for housing, work and living, business, service industries, culture and tourism arose on a 157 hectare surface between the historic Speicherstadt (old warehouse district) and the Elbe. Hamburg’s Hafencity thus became Europe’s largest development project. The premisses of ecological sustainability determined not only the large-scale buildings for industry such as Unilever’s, designed by Behnisch Architekten.

High standards for energy conservation

Buildings for small and medium-sized firms, as well as buildings for housing, schools and education set high standards in terms of energy conservation and modern workplace culture. Ecological sustainability is also reflected in a transportation concept with concentrated local public transportation, and numerous bicycle and pedestrian paths. A standard is also being set with solar thermal energy, fuel cells and block-type thermal power stations to supplement the heating grid of the new district on the water’s edge.

International construction exhibition (Internationale Bauausstellung) Hamburg 2013

Sustainability and climate change, elementary thematic complexes for tomorrow’s metropolises, have been intensively factored into the preliminary planning for the Internationale Bauausstellung Hamburg. Since 2007, Hamburg has been working on research and development programmes to focus the urban-development expansion of pre-existing structures - far above and beyond the ecological aspects - on the social co-existence of different cultures, as exemplified by the city districts of Veddel and Wilhelmsburg. Unlike Veddel, Wilhelmsburg – an Elbe island situated behind dikes – was decoupled from the City of Hamburg since it was a part of Harburg, and was assigned to the Hamburg-Mitte district only in 2008.

Cultural diversity

In this city district, business and infrastructure are characterised to this day by the free port, shipping, commerce and industry. The inhabitants are multi-cultural; almost half of the residents of Wilhelmsburg have a migration background. Investment in housing lagged here for a long time. With the IBA Hamburg, things got moving in the Elbe-island quarters behind the dikes. The housing project Open-House, located in the heart of old Wilhelmsburg, shows how cultural diversity, energy conservation and social issues can be reconciled with ideas and concepts for a new urbanity.

Open-House by Onix

Here, right by the Vogelhüttendeich in the Reiherstieg district and overlooking the idyllic Ernst August Canal, a jointly planned building arose that completely fulfils the wish for diversity among the residents. In November 2007, the architectural firm Onix (Groningen, The Netherlands) won the attestation procedure and realised the building together with the Hamburg firm Kunst + Herbert Architekten. The first residents moved in in December 2011. The building owners were the urban development company steg, the housing association Schanze eG, the building cooperative Schipperort and the Rosengarten communal solar power plants. It is a building that not only convinces as a model for passive house energy conservation with solar thermal energy and two thermal power stations, but also imports a new understanding of community into the district in terms of urban planning considerations, design and concept.

Here, the right to a voice in decision-making on the part of both owners and users lends the tradition of housing association accommodations a contemporary impulse. The three-storey building, conceived for a total of 44 tenant and owner parties, is a hybrid in which the town house model as well as communal housing with joint-use areas, roof lofts and a maisonette flat is realised. The white-plastered building does not stand out in the neighbourhood; it fits in with and supplements existing older buildings. The residents benefit from the fact that Open-House opens up onto the landscape and, with its mixture of private, semi-public and public outdoor areas, successfully reflects the concept of neighbourly living.

Understanding identity as community

The fact that climate protection and sustainable construction cannot be achieved through construction engineering alone is shown by numerous additional projects for Wilhelmsburg, such as the new building by Sauerbruch Hutton for Hamburg’s Department of Urban Development and the Environment. What is also needed is a willingness to rethink outdated structures, shortening working distances, combining work and living, and strengthening community identification, even if all it involves is sharing the solar thermal system with one’s neighbours.