Area 126 / Hamburg

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Hamburg, reflections of water and architecture

In Hamburg a red – brick  red – thread connects the  spectacular and famous  Elbphilarmonie building  designed by Herzog & de  Meuron, still in construction,  with the expressive contours  of Fritz Höger’s Chilehaus.  But it would be a bad  mistake to limit the affinities  between these extraordinary  icons to the sphere of  design. Among, in spite  of the change of century  and millennium, a frenetic  industrial activity and a busy  harbour, bombardments,  destruction and the ringing  of a bell which has initiated  an impressive reconstruction  work after World War II  and an urban reconversion  today. In fact, the case of  Hamburg represents, in the  most accomplished sense, the  true significance of the essence  of a city: an aggregate in  continuous transformation  which adapts to the changing  lifestyles and economic and  social conditions and thus to  the life of its inhabitants. The  transition and harmonious mix  of traditions, expressionism  and modernity, even in its  harshest and most radical  interpretations as that of  Hilbersheimer, is merely  one particular aspect of  the long town planning  tradition through which the  city has organized itself,  from the “Feather Plan”  of the early years of last  century, according to lines  of development involving  the whole metropolitan area  along the main infrastructural  directrixes. However,  while the fervent industrial  and commercial activities  associated with the harbour  have tended to expand  outwards due to the inevitable  de-industrialization of central  areas, immense areas along  the waterfront have been freed as a result of disinvestments and indispensable relocations; they have been and are subject of an exceptional work of urban “densification”.
What Wilhelm Schultze, in charge of urban planning and development of Hamburg, defines as “more city in the city”, represents the main strategic goal of a new urban and environmental policy which aims to make the city more compact, reducing requirements for mobility and at the same time protecting the creation and upgrading of green areas and urban parks with the result, attentively pursued, of making it more attractive to live in the centre as compared to the trend which, in previous decades, made the inhabitants prefer the possibility of moving to areas outside the city. Coherently with the research aimed at creating high quality spaces and an urban life, all the choices have been oriented according to operative, logistic, constructive and infrastructural modalities that centre on the eco-compatibility of the projects, focusing both on energy saving and on the use of energy from renewable sources, and on a desire to improve the environment, both in terms of architectural design and of participative processes, mediating between the direct involvement of many actors in the contemporary architectural debate and the formation of a new generation of local architects who, precisely through the processes of competitions and the selection of ideas, have made a crucial contribution to the renaissance of the city.

Marco Casamonti

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Download “More city in the city”, a dialogue with Wilhelm Schulte and Jörn Walter