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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.
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.
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.
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.
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