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Life at the water: how abandoned port in Hamburg is transformed into the modern city

Life at the water: how abandoned port in Hamburg is  transformed into the modern city
  • calender 20.04.2017

Hamburg port experienced many fateful events. Especially difficult were the years of World War II, as the port was decisive transport importance, it became a target for bombing, and unfortunately, 70% of its warehouses were destroyed. After 1945, there was a successful modernization of the port, and it returned his laurels of championship again. However, with the invention of the cargo container in the 1950s it became clear that the existing port pools for them are too small and shallow.

 That is why the southern shore of the Elbe was chosen as a platform for specialized container terminals. Although port pools, berths and port warehouses were located close to the city center, the importance of this region, as an industrial region, continued to fall. Everything changed in 1997 when the Senate decided to create a new city, Hafencity.


HafenCity is the largest developer project in the city center of Europe. This is a new business district of the city, which began to be built after ten years of discussions by architects, city builders and experts. The project started in 2000, after the Hamburg Senate approved the relevant master plan. According to the project, the city's area in the port area should have been restored.


Today, HafenCity consists mainly of new buildings, because architects did not see the point to restore all the old buildings, after all, the large area of the port was built in single-storey buildings.


The construction began with the construction of 6,000 units for 12,000 future residents of the town. In total, it was planned to build over 2.32 million square meters. It was planned to arrange office premises for about 45,000 people, as well as restaurants, bars, recreation centers, parks, squares and quays.


The team that worked on the project consisted of specialists from different profiles: architects, bridges engineers, landscape architects, geographers, economists, sociologists, urban planners. The creators had an ambitious goal: to create an area where harmonious living spaces, commerce, public spaces and offices would coexist; So that this place was not high-quality social housing, but the real beauty was complemented by the river Elba. The development of this area was designed according to the quarterly principle.


And in 2009, the first quarter was opened. In early 2017, the whole world watched over the opening of the Elba Philharmonic, which was designed by the Herzog & de Meuron bureau. The first elementary school with a kindergarten was opened in 2009. Later, in the year 2013 in the popular park Grasbrook an elementary school was opened, children were involved in its design directly. Meanwhile, in the south of the district, the first multi-storey residential and office buildings were also completed in 2009. At the same time, the first public spaces were opened right near the Elbe River.

 About 500 residents have settled in the north of HafenCity, in Überseequartier. There are shops and establishments of rest. It can be reached by the U4 subway, which is expected to use 35,000 people every day after construction. In addition, special attention is paid to public transport, and for private cars, underground parking spaces are created. It is planned that by 2021 the district will become an example of the most integrated real estate in Europe.

In addition to the concept of "mixed use" (when there are housing, offices, and service providers in the area), the project's authors implemented a communication campaign aimed at attracting the right people to the project. It means the promotion of various cultural institutions that would operate side-by-side with residential houses and shops in the area and could form a sense of community in the area. HufenCity Hamburg GmbH Executive Director Yungen Bruns-Berentelg has repeatedly stated this in an interview.

In addition, experts were contacted by sociologist Marcus Menzel, who acted as a mediator between the residents and HafenCity, in order to establish effective communication between the residents and the companies operating the district. As an example, in his interview with Spiegel, he speaks about the situation in 2008, when 600 people with 40 children began to live in the district. It was just the beginning of the construction and there was neither kindergarten, no a playground in the district. In the process of communicating with parents it turned out that the playground is not their first wish. A temporary place for children's rest was built in the district after discussions, until the construction is completed.

Therefore, we can conclude that qualitative communication with residents and the identification of their needs is no less important for the developer than good space and comfortable planning of apartments.

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