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Hamburg is the second largest city of Germany. Situated in the very north Hamburg’s prosperity is based on its harbor (after Rotterdam the most important harbor of Europe) and trade. Furthermore the city has a reputation in the world of media and advertising. Economical aspects are also influencing the appearance of the city and its architecture. The ‘Speicherstadt’ with its old brick warehouses and its system of canals represent the early importance of Hamburg within an international trade network. The Chilehaus by architect Fritz Höger from 1924 is considered a masterpiece of architecture for its refined brick works and at the same time an early example of a large scale office building. In the ’50ies and ’60ties Architect Werner Kallmorgen helped shaping the silhouette of the city with his office buildings for newspapers and publishers.

The important recent urban development and architectural highlights are to be found along the river Elbe, the economic heart of the city. Among them the ‘Hafencity’ is the most ambitious project. Near the existing city centre, in continuation to the historic ‘Speicherstadt’ large areas of the former harbors are re-developed in order to create residential buildings and work spaces on the waterfront. Another recent plan is the ‘Perlenkette’ (‘strip of pearls’), a long row of architectural projects on an undeep stroke of land directly situated on the river. But also the many inner-city projects by international and local architects deserve attention. The conversion of old factories and industrial sites (see Altona and Falkenried) as well as residential developments such as the plan by Atelier 5, not far from the Alster, the big lake in the centre of Hamburg.


The HafenCity is definitely the most ambitious development project in Hamburg. To the south and east of the historical warehouse-city 155 hectares of former harbor area are being redeveloped. After winning an international urban design competition, the Rotterdam-based office KCAP worked out a master plan for the area in collaboration with the city planning department.

At the Sandtorhafen and the Kehrwiederspitze the first projects have been realized. While the buildings on the Kehrwiederspitze from the 1990s house mainly offices, the more recent projects on the Sandtorkai and the Dalmannkai provide space for residential and commercial use. For flood protection reasons, the buildings are located on an elevated deck used for parking. On one side the old brick warehouses on the other side the river shore, the new architecture claims one of the most exceptional sites in Hamburg.

The Hafencity is intended to be an extension of the existing city centre towards the Elbe River. Internationally operating companies build their new headquarters here. A (temporary) cru ship terminal brings tourists into the city. On top of one of the big warehouses a concert hall, designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron, is mainly financed by the wealthy citizens of Hamburg and will become a new landmark on the river front.

Elbe River

The so called “Perlenkette” (strip of pearls) represents a long row of architecture projects on an un-deep stroke of land along the northern margins of the river Elbe. At the Hamburg fish market, where on Sunday mornings all kinds of goods, including fish, are being sold, an old malt factory has been converted into a retail center for interior design. Former warehouses and silos provide space to apartments, offices and restaurants.

At the Elbberg (a slope from a higher level to the river bank) the Hamburg based architecture firm Bothe Richter Teherani has realized three very particular buildings all dealing with the specific site in very special way.

The western end of the “Perlenkette” is marked by a couple of U-shaped office buildings, situated on an artificial embankment. During this tour one can constantly enjoy the tremendous views on the water and the opposite harbor. After the tour it is the possible to take a river boat back to the city centre and experience the architecture also from the water perspective.

Falkenried and Alster

Between the stately villa districts at the inner city lake Alster and the 19th century neighborhood Eppendorf, a lot of interesting architecture projects has been realized recently. In the first place the Falkenried site should be mentioned here. The former tram depot has been transformed to a new city quarter with (luxury) apartments, offices, shops and cafés. Bolles + Wilson were responsible for the master plan; the plan was executed in collaboration with other architects firms. Not far from Falkenried Blauraum architects converted an old commercial building into apartments.

On a former football field and next to the media center designed by Norman Foster and Peter Kulka, the Swiss architects Atelier 5 have realized a complex and dense residential structure with many different housing types. With Enric Miralles another international architect has designed in this neighborhood (the youth music school). Also the nearby university campus has been modernized in the last years and among the white stucco villas at the lake front of the Alster, Richard Meier built a (white) office building next to the US embassy.


Altona belonged to the Danish kingdom until 1864, and after being independent for a while it became part of Hamburg in 1938. Altona, and specifically the neighborhood Ottensen, are defined by old residential architecture, which attracted students, young academics and creative people during the last years. Next to the lively atmosphere which these new inhabitants brought with them, also the old factories contribute to the charm of this district.

It all started with the “Fabrik” (Factory) in 1971, the place-to-be for jazz and blues concerts in Hamburg. During the years more and more of the factories stopped working and were reused for other purposes. One important example are the Zeisehallen, a factory producing ship propellers, now housing a library, a cinema, restaurants and shops. A more recent project is the conversion of the old gas works in Bahrenfeld. This site has become a kind of industrial park with apartments, commercial space, small enterprises, and two hotels.

This new definition of an old neighborhood can be also noticed in a couple of smaller projects, such as architectural infills in existing structures and contemporary architecture searching the dialogue with the historic one.

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