-660395080 the Atlantic, moreover the city benefited by


Università della Svizzera Italiana – Accademia di Architettura
Marina Pirona
Docente: Christoph Frank
Corso: Modelli della città storica


In the XIV Century the Hanse was the most significant commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns throughout the early and late Middle Ages. The League dominated commercial activity in northern Europe from the XII to the XV Century bringing together two main trading areas: in the east the monopoly of the Baltic trade and in the west, the region of the Rhineland provided well established trading relationships with the Low Countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) and England.
The city of Hamburg occupied a special place in this alliance as it was the sole major port that provided access to the Atlantic, moreover the city benefited by the elaborate Elbe river and its multitude of canal systems which facilitated good transportation across northern Europe.

During the XV century times became rugged for the Hanseatic League as the Dutch, who were once allied of the League, became its main seafaring competitors, putting in jeopardy Hamburg’s trading affairs. “… While Hamburg initially was resisting the Dutch, it eventually opened trade to all locals and non-locals, and instead of resisting this Dutch trade, it adapted itself perfectly to the changing situation and moved on toward an open system of trade that welcomed diverse merchants. Thus, Hamburg internally reformed, and the centuries-old privileges that a few of its merchants enjoyed declined, especially in the XVI century.” Other important trading cities of the Hanseatic League like Lübeck were also negatively affected by the Dutch trading affairs and responded with a much more conservative approach, that is by giving more privileges to its own merchants and by persistently attempting to disrupt the Dutch trade. However, this approach resulted inadequate as the city’s economy began to slowly and continuously decline, whereas Hamburg witnessed a persistent enlargement and development of its urban space which lead to new trading opportunities. As a result, the population in Hamburg increased too. It could be said that Hamburg serves as a tale of how cities can reinvent themselves by changing with the times.

The city is now willing to develop and grow further though a project of excellence: HafenCity. HafenCity is Europe’s biggest inner-city development project for a city on water: Hamburg’s territory will be enlarged by 40% . With this project, centred around a quarter located on the Elbe river in the area of the Grosser Grasbrook, Hamburg is setting new standards in terms of satisfying local and global needs. In fact, the objective is to attract businesses on a local and international scale, in order for the city to re-establish its position as a global business hub.
Another characteristic that differentiates this project from other city development projects on waterfronts is to create a new, high quality and complex urban centre deeply rooted into the territory and the existing old city centre. The project is a challenging interpretation of the old and the new urban space in relationship with the city’s waterfront.

The urbanists and architects working behind this project want to create continuity between Hamburg and HafenCity and between the latter and the southern suburbs, using as model the idea of a “city of neighbourhoods”. HafenCity is a natural extension of the centre towards the Elbe river, a bridge that will allow people to easily access the harbour area – which was off-limits until recently – from the centre and from the islands of Wilhelmsburg and Veddel. These emarginated areas are going to be requalified through the construction of culture oriented infrastructures such as universities and museums but also through public spaces such as parks, squares, cycle ways, new metro stations and bridges. HafenCity is going to develop through a great mixture of quarters, like a web, a net of public spaces, open areas and buildings articulated in a new and dynamic way.

This new district is going to connect the northern and southern parts of the city, the centre with the suburbs and emarginated areas. This is also going to give back to the city its harbour which will once again interact with the people living and working in Hamburg. Thus, this project is going to have a substantial impact upon the living conditions and standards of the citizens as these changes will shift the barycentre of Hamburg towards the south. As a result of these changes, residential areas will be key parts to determine the project successful, as they will need to reflect and satisfy new ways of living in HafenCity.

Am Sandotorkai / Dalmannkai is HafenCity’s first completed quarter and it reinterprets the urban frame of a historic quarter named Cremoninsel. Am Sandotorkai / Dalmannkai was built to accommodate almost solely residential buildings and it distinguishes itself due to its discontinuous sequence of buildings along the canals, a sequence which varies and fragments the outline of pedestrian promenades. “The cityscape in this neighbourhood is quite diverse; twenty-seven developers and twenty-six architecture firms were involved in the fifteen buildings of the neighbourhood. The ground level is a public place, open to everyone—it is the most important part of the city for residents, retailers, and for the planners at HafenCity Hamburg GmbH.” Almost all the neighbourhood’s buildings offer on their ground floors a mixture of different bars, restaurants, shops and galleries to boost social interactions and gatherings. This gives the opportunity to residents and workers to fully live and enjoy the city. “It was here for the first time that public amenities were successfully integrated into ground floors on a larger scale within the framework of a major project”. 
The area needs to accommodate the “lifestyles of residents which are as disparate as the architecture: around 1,000 people live and work in the quarter. Young working singles and families live side by side with older couples or seniors whose children have left home.

This socially differentiated structure is also the result of a call for expressions of interest procedure: as of 2003, sites for housing no longer go to the highest bidder. Instead the developer with the best use concept is given an exclusive option on the property at a previously agreed price. This means that many rental or owned apartments are affordable for mid-income earners, while some are in the luxury segment. Much more reasonably priced living accommodation was realized through building cooperatives and three joint building ventures.” 
Hamburg is a city that battled against flooding since the very first settlements. Despite the huge damages that occurred in the past, like in 1962 when the Great flood submerged a fifth of the municipal areas, the city does not seem to shy away from the waterfront, instead it chooses to face the challenge and overcome it through innovative technologies and new ways of constructing on water. In fact, all the new buildings stand on concrete bases of eight meters above the sea level in order to elevate and secure them from water, moreover they are being cleverly used for underground garages so that no additional space for above-ground parking blocks will be needed. In Am Sandotorkai anti-flood walls and windows were installed on the ground floors of the buildings and if needed they are being activated and closed to prevent water from entering the buildings. Besides elevating the buildings from the sea level they were also retreated from the waterfront, creating broad strip up to 15 meters wide which function as waterside walks. The epitome of residential construction in Am Sandotorkai is a completed project called Am Sandotorkai 56. The building consists of two distinct bocks characterized by red bricks facades, separated by a shining, translucent glass centre. This aesthetic element not only provides a thematic break but it also allows to see the historical cityscape behind the building: Speicherstadt, one of the oldest warehouse districts on waterfront. It is possible to admire the XIX century’s warehouse constructions, characterized by bright red coloured bricks and vintage vessels. Am Sandotorkai 56 serves as example of how new architectures through the use of materials (bricks) and structure (the cut between the two blocks) can evocate the history of the territory and link the new to the old urban space resulting in a homogenous, harmonious and inedited cityscape.

Similarly, another city in northern Europe is developing new residential neighbourhoods displaying new architectures: Copenhagen. The 8 House, also known as the Big House, was projected by Bjarke Ingels Group and it is situated in the southern part of the Ørestad and it is configured as a new residential complex that resembles the shape of a big eight. Ørestad is the most recently built quarter in Copenhagen and it is considered by architects as a new city where nothing exists and where everything is possible: a blank page to experiment new concepts and architectures. The 8 House derives from the idea of emphasising differences connected to the different functions and needs of each space of the House. Like residential buildings in Am Sandotorkai in Hamburg, the 8 House offers three different types of apartments in order to meet the needs and wants of different social groups that are going to inhabit the complex. Offices and shops at the ground floor coexist with the residential spaces on a surface of over 61,000 metres squared. Moreover, the whole complex is accessible by bike through the continuous paths that evolve around each floor. Compared to Am Sandotorkai 56, The 8 House also links to the Danish territory through architecture. In fact, some of its housing units are provided with a retraction of the façade creating a garden-fly gallery, revisiting in a modern way the traditional type of Danish terraced houses with gardens.

Another remarkable project in terms of resembling the character of the historical, urban waterfront development of Hamburg is a complex designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ellen Van Loon of the Dutch OMA. The building of 23,000 m2 will comprise of a Science Centre,theatre, aquarium, offices, laboratories and commercial and retail facilities and located at the entrance to the Magdeburger harbour, at the end point of an urban axis from the inner Alster to the river Elbe. Situated at the waterfront in close to the container and cruise ships, the complex signifies the connection between the harbour and the city.
The Science Centre is constructed of ten modular blocks that connect to form a ring shaped building. This shape and the maritime power and mass of the individual blocks, is precisely what makes it resemble the character of the historical, urban waterfront development. Therefore, the building is a symbol of Hamburg’s economic strength and a representation of the city’s growing interest in technology and science. The exhibition space also works on a modular principle similar to the building, allowing a huge range of possibilities for exhibitions. A variety of subjects will be able to go on display making the exhibition centre a stage for not only scientific research but also for all aspects of our modern life.
The function of the blocks that make up the building allow for various changes on a daily basis. The central structure accommodates the vertical circulation whereas the blocks on the west and east side are used as exhibition spaces. With the modular structure, the curators will have a vast amount of possible outlines for their exhibitions, making the Science Center one of the most advanced exhibition spaces in the world. With three terraces surrounding the building the Science Centre allows access to the Hamburg city centre as well as to the West and East sides of the Magdeburg harbour. This three-way axis will link the various parts of the city and bring new life into the HafenCity. It enables direct interaction between visitors and passers-by functioning as an urban stage. Various events taking place on top of the individual plateaus of the building as well as the restaurants on the terrace of the Belle Etage will stimulate activity in the HafenCity.

The complex will provide office and laboratory spaces for scientists and thus will act as a hub for various institutions in Hamburg. Cultural Senator of Hamburg Prof. Dr. Karin von Welck explained that: "The new Science Centre will be established as an interdisciplinary meeting place for HafenCity Hamburg, an innovative space for art, culture and science." As a Science Centre the building leads by example addressing the issue of sustainability not only in its flexible approach to programming and function but also by incorporating the latest environmental technologies. The complex can be seen as a great proof of Hamburg’s ever steady ambition for growth and is definitely a match for the just as advanced HafenCity project on which it will stand.

Hamburg can be seen as a perfect exemplification of an ever growing and modern city. It has always successfully adapted itself to the needs of the time. It is not only one of the biggest and most important trading hubs in the world, showcasing perfectly coordinated land to sea connections, but a timeless city which merges the old with the new in the centre, just as well as it blends the huge cargo ships and bicycle roads in the harbour. It is a unique city with recent developments that have a potential to put Hamburg at the forefront of European cities in terms of urban solutions with innovative and sustainable methods, which not only function well, but make lives of millions easier, safer and generally more enjoyable. Upon completion of the remaining HafenCity project, it could be said that Hamburg will serve as a perfect model for architects and urbanists from all over the world.


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La sottoscritta studentessa Marina Pirona dichiara che il presente elaborato teorico è originale e che in esso sono rispettate le norme della proprietà intellettuale.



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