HafenCity: A Model Project for Climate-Friendly Living and Work
Enlarge image Hamburg's HafenCity is a sustainable urban development which uses clean thermal energy. (© picture-alliance / Bildagentur-online/McPhoto-KPA ) Spectacular architecture, Hanseatic stringency, a model for climate-friendly living: HafenCity in Hamburg, the largest urban development program in Europe, is creating an urbane city structure that breathes. The “real estate project” is becoming “home” to many.
It’s probably one of the most bizarre school yards in the world. Surrounded by glazed office towers and construction cranes, the primary-school children of Hamburg’s Katharinenschule play in what looks like a bright aviary on the roof of their building. Frisbees and balls lie in the protective netting covering the light well, and the sloping supports also have protective nets. The happy shouts of the children don’t give the impression of caged animals, perhaps because they’re so engrossed in their activities that they’re oblivious to the views and the uniqueness of their rooftop playground.
Enlarge image HafenCity is a popular place to go out for dinner or drinks, take a stroll, or simply hang out. (© picture alliance / dpa ) They’re unlike the tourists who pour into Hamburg’s HafenCity day by day to take a look at the progress of this new city district for 12,000 residents and 40,000 employees. The tourists regularly take the lift to the fifth floor of the beautifully designed school to take photographs from the rooftop. Numerous conflicts that emerge when designing a new city quarter are reflected in this building. The fact that the school playground is located on the roof isn’t a witty architectural idea, but the result of the land prices in this desirable area of Germany’s second largest metropolis. The difficulty of finding a safe place for children to be among themselves between the heavy construction vehicles, the steep harbor embankments and the stream of inquisitive visitors illustrates the precarious task of reconciling different lifestyles within a confined space. And the uncertainty of whether the school will actually find enough young students in this newly designed neighborhood is a typical example of the many unknowns involved in a huge project that is regarded as the largest urban development program in Europe. In contrast to neighborhoods that have gradually evolved and learned how to constantly adapt, everything for the clean sweep in the 15 hectares (approx. 37 acres) of the old harbor quarter has to be foreseen in advance to ensure that the district is not dominated entirely by individual commercial interests. And this certainly includes the needs and preferences of the future inhabitants as well as the limits of the investors, who are faced with the additional social and ecological demands of a modern urban society.
Enlarge image These two young men are using their lunch break to get in a quick game of basketball in the HafenCity. (© picture alliance / dpa ) Above all, the right relationship between residential and work areas has to be wisely calculated. Too much office space drives away people looking for homes, because they don’t want to live in cold steel and glass canyons. Too much living space can be bad for the municipal budget, because commercial property earns more for the city coffers. Luxury apartments alone are no solution, since they’re not family-friendly, and a district without children conveys a rather hostile, sterile atmosphere.
HafenCity, a drawing-board world for good living and work, has been under development for ten years. However, its ambition is to be better than other prominent examples of harbor modernization. The declared aim is to build a district that immediately possesses the traditional qualities of historical inner cities: parks and pubs, promenades and bakeries, museums and shopping paradises, relaxing green enclaves and vibrant squares – a mini-metropolis.
Enlarge image The Elbphilharmonie concert hall, shown here in an undated computer-generated model, is scheduled to be completed in 2012. (© picture-alliance/ dpa/dpaweb ) Some 30 large-scale structures are now complete, while ten others are almost finished. These are complemented by the landmarks in the east and west of the first development phase: the publishing house of the news magazine Der Spiegel and the new Elbphilharmonie by Herzog & de Meuron, a combination of concert hall, hotel, apartments and an amazingly designed glass facade. This first third of the almost three-kilometer-long development area already conveys a concrete impression of what the completed composition of HafenCity will finally look like. The combination of densely built-up areas and open waters lend the work of art an urbane, freely breathing city structure. Ambling visitors discover fine shops offering teas and sailing fashions. But the basics are also available from bakeries, kiosks and cafés. The visitors’ curiosity is actually heightened by the mixture of noisy building construction work and already inhabited blocks. But the people of Hamburg also enjoy sauntering along the new promenades beside the old docks to see HafenCity’s constantly changing shape, thanks to the rapid pace of construction.
Apart from the sheer size of the project, the illustrious names of the architects who are planning and building here attract great interest from the visitors and investors who are eagerly buying up plots – despite the crisis. Richard Meier and David Chipperfield have designed office buildings here, Rem Koolhaas is planning a ring-shaped Science Center, Zaha Hadid will be creating a new promenade link to the old city. But the cast of star architects also includes a number from Germany, such as Hadi Teherani, Christoph Ingenhoven and Stefan Behnisch. Although one might expect a playful assembly of architectural sculptures from so many brilliant designers, the appearance of HafenCity is in fact quite sober.
Enlarge image Hamburg's Speicherstadt is a warehouse district that now also houses several museums. (© picture-alliance / united-archives/mcphoto ) Strict specifications, such as the use of brickwork similar to the historical buildings in the nearby Speicherstadt (warehouse district), dampened excessive flights of fantasy from the start. With the exception of clearly defined sites, where a number of top architects can use the full range of the modern architectural palette, the basic impression tends towards serial monotony. But the philosophy of Hamburg’s planning authorities to proceed with the greatest sobriety and control in all areas is balanced out by high standards in another area: in their efforts to play a “pioneering role in creating a model for a climate-friendly city” the even-keeled Hamburg urban planners decided not only to reduce the density and variety of traffic in the quarter, but also to introduce a differentiated certification system that obliges investors to operate their buildings with the lowest level of CO2 emissions possible. Whereas on average in Germany some 600 grams of CO2 are produced per kilowatt hour in electricity generation, the present rate for a golden environmental certificate in HafenCity is 89 grams. When it comes to heating, the focus is especially on low-emission and renewable energy sources, such as district heating and solar energy.
In an effort to boost voluntary competition in innovative environmental technology amongst the investors, the plots are being allocated, not to the highest bidders, but according to the persuasiveness of their project concepts which have to reflect not only social, urban planning and economic aspects, but also strongly reflect ecological considerations. Finally, the typical Hanseatic cool-headedness also includes the calm reaction to changing circumstances. Because demand for living space is increasing, but the new consumer and office towers in the Overseas Quarter, the heart of HafenCity, could only be filled by municipal authorities moving in, emphasis is now being laid on affordable living space in development to the east. Then the children will most likely have more space too, without retreating to the security of the school roof. They can then conquer their new city as a force to be reckoned with and help transform it from a “real estate project” into a place called “home.”
Written by Till Briegleb
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