Creating a city-within-a-city
24 JAN 2021
A former industrial brownfield site, HafenCity is Hamburg’s new ‘city-within-a-city’ and a role model of inclusive inner-city densification realised through an innovative governance structure and a unique land sales programme.
Case study 14
|Location||Elbe River waterfront|
|Sections||1 In brief
2 Key issues before project
6 Replicable ideas
Aerial view of HafenCity © Jonas Weinitschke/ 123rf.com
- HafenCity is a 157ha inner-city brownfield development project located beside the Elbe River and south of Hamburg’s historic city centre – a ‘city within a city’, featuring a fine-grain mix of offices, residences, education, culture, leisure, tourism and retail.
- When completed, HafenCity will house more than 2.4 million square metres of gross floor area, more than 7,000 residential units, accommodate 5,000 university students and 70,000 visitors a day, and open up some 45,000 job opportunities.
- HafenCity is anchored by the iconic cultural project – Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall, an adaptive reuse of an old warehouse and designed by renowned architects Herzog & de Meuron.
Key issues before the project
The extent of HafenCity next to the inner-city © City of Hamburg/HafenCity
- The area was previously part of Hamburg’s industrial port and a customs-free zone, bordering the historic Speicherstadt – a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015 – to the north.
- Being an industrial area, it was poorly integrated with Hamburg’s inner city and blocked the latter’s access to the Elbe River waterfront.
- Increasing container logistics in the 1990s drove much of Hamburg’s industrial activities away towards the south of the Elbe River, where the port could expand to cater to large container ships.
- Faced with an increasing demand for housing and offices as well as flood risks, the city decided to redevelop the former port area to create a new urban district.
Leadership and governance
- A master plan was created for HafenCity first in 2000, and subsequently amended in 2010, to guide the development of the district.
- The land is owned by the master planner – HafenCity Hamburg GmbH, a 100 percent subsidiary of the City of Hamburg but autonomous in operations from the city government.
- By setting up tendering processes that favour quality over price criteria, HafenCity Hamburg GmbH drives development concepts that support a socially balanced mix of apartments – one-third of which are reserved for low and medium-income households, good architecture and urban design, and energy-efficiency.
- Contracts are awarded in a pre-sale process, which allows the successful bidder sufficient time to obtain finances, plan the architecture (also through a tender process), and obtain the building permit.
- The city on the other hand, intervenes during the development process to ensure diversity and quality of uses before a building permit can be obtained.
- This process ensures a high degree of compliance with the overall vision of the district.
Creativity and innovation
The historic Speicherstadt district © galeja/ 123rf.com
- The tendering process described above is a breakthrough for Hamburg in terms of city planning and is akin to that of a ‘matching process’ which created ideal urban environments instead of relying exclusively on price mechanism.
- Differing from other waterfront areas focusing only on office and retail concepts or high-cost living, HafenCity is able to achieve a socially balanced mix through a closely supervised and coordinated approach.
- One-third of new residential areas within HafenCity are designated as subsidised housing for low and medium-income households, creating an inclusive living environment.
- HafenCity adopts e-mobility and car-sharing concepts to reduce private car use and minimise the need for car parking spaces.
- Particularly sustainable building projects are awarded with a sustainability certificate when they meet criteria ranging from energy efficiency to resource efficiency, health and noise reduction, and universal design.
- HafenCity is elevated to 8 metres above sea level, with sufficient flood basins to address risks of flooding caused by tidal surges.
- The district’s urban design reflects the traditional architecture of the neighbouring Speicherstadt, with vistas carefully aligned to ensure the historic spires of churches are not obscured.
- The iconic Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall was opened in 2017 and has already established itself as a major attraction and a world-renowned cultural space.
- Several schools and kindergartens and HafenCity University as well as two other universities have opened.
- The U4 subway started regular services in 2012.
- Hamburg’s inner city now extends to the waterfront, creating a new modern identity for the city, and increasing the quality of the built environment.
Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall © macronomy/ 123rf.com
- HafenCity is a role model for not just Hamburg, but other cities in Germany and Europe in implementing ecologically, socially and economically sustainable development concepts.
- In large urban areas with a long-term development plan such as HafenCity, a flexible process would allow its development to address new challenges, requirements and issues over time. As such, the master plan was completely reworked in 2010 with intensive public discussion to address other areas that were not originally included.
- The process of land ownership and tendering process allow both the city and the stakeholders to achieve their objectives while jointly create a diversified urban and social fabric.
- The setting up of HafenCity Hamburg GmbH as an autonomous subsidiary helps to avoid cumbersome and lengthy planning processes and red tape. O