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A flexible basic matrix as the point of departure for good urban development

A masterplan approved by the senate of the city of Hamburg on February 29, 2000 has established itself as a successful development framework for HafenCity up to today. The document, which consists of plans and primary objectives, sketches out the basic goals of HafenCity development. It arose out of an international competition prepared by the then Urban Development Ministry and the GHS (today: HafenCity Hamburg GmbH). The winning design was by the Hamburgplan team with Kees Christiaanse and ASTOC which convinced through its underlying principles of a fine-grained mix of a variety of uses, the many references to the existing inner city, a few selective, skillful urban planning interventions for special locations, as well as the flexible underlying framework of different city quarters. With a similarly broad range of urban typologies, the Masterplan has been instrumental up to today in realizing a total of ten neighborhoods with different characters.

The Masterplan was conceived from the outset as a flexible, updateable concept, designed to be refined and firmed up over the course of the planning and development process. Thus, for traffic, flood protection or open space planning it simply prescribes basic technical parameters that are continuously evolved: important elements in this context are urban planning and landscape planning competitions, architectural competitions for individual buildings and infrastructure competitions for bridges, but also the function plan drafts, coordination procedures resulting from urban planning competitions. It also enables strategic interventions for building sustainability, the social mix, mobility and new uses.


Over a period of ten years, the Masterplan with its concept for horizontal and vertical mixes of uses and flexible framework of disparate urban neighborhoods proved to be a good point of departure for redevelopment of former port areas south of the inner city. However, the document lacked an adequate planning basis for the three eastern quarters, Oberhafen, Baakenhafen and Elbbrücken. In addition, the underlying conditions there had altered considerably: whereas eastern HafenCity had been regarded initially as a suburban city area, it had evolved in the meantime into part of the new core inner city, partly due to previously unforeseen new subway connections that had. For this reason the Masterplan for eastern HafenCity was completely reworked between 2008 and 2010, before approval by the Senate as the Revised Masterplan in 2010.

Compared with western and central HafenCity, the three eastern neighborhoods are spatially more isolated and less integrated into the existing city, and their proximity to several transport routes calls for special noise protection measures. This also creates opportunities to give the quarters individuality: Am Baakenhafen is taking on the contours of a mixed “city for everyone”, a residential and recreational neighborhood offering several thousand job opportunities; Oberhafen will be a creative and sports quarter, and Elbbrücken, a location for urban living, will be primarily a business locality, home to new highly innovative worlds of work.

Redefinition of the Masterplan was led by HafenCity Hamburg GmbH in conjunction with the then Hamburg Urban Development and Environment Ministry as well as the principal authors of the original Masterplan, Kees Christiaanse, with ASTOC. At the same time there was intensive public discussion, with a program of more than 40 events. Since then the reworked development plan has been honed increasingly in further phases (urban design competitions, open space competitions, zoning plans and architectural competitions by private building companies). 


Thanks to the revision of the Masterplan, more useable space can be realized throughout HafenCity: due to the intense building density and the relocation of large port businesses, the total gross floor area (GFA) has increased from 1.5 million to 2.4 million m². Land reclamation at the eastern end of Baakenhafen harbor basin and for the new Baakenpark also expands overall land area from 123 to 127 ha.  Reworking of the Masterplan also means that the total number of homes planned increases from 5,500 to over 7,500. Moreover, there are better possibilities for increasing the social mix, joint building ventures are receiving more consideration in site tenders and, since 2011, one third of residential space being developed is publicly subsidized.

The leafy character of HafenCity has also been developed further. Squares, small and large, linked together underline urban spatial integration in eastern HafenCity. Lohsepark, HafenCity’s central public park, extends down through Baakenhöft park to the River Elbe. In the south, an Elbe promenade encourages people to stroll on to Entenwerder island, and Baakenpark, a reclaimed green peninsula for play and leisure, will add to the attractions of Baakenhafen neighborhood. Public open spaces throughout HafenCity now cover an area of more than 28 ha, compared with the initially planned 24 ha (not counting publicly accessible private areas), while the total length of shoreline extends from almost 10 to 10.5 km.

The fact that eastern HafenCity is affected by heavy through-traffic means that noise exposure is high in the north and east, however. The response has been to create intelligent urban planning and technical concepts for these locations: the main eastern traffic artery Versmannstrasse will be lined primarily with office buildings with their broad backs to the road, providing noise-protected areas to the southern side. The semi-enclosed residential ensembles will also form inner courtyards, providing shelter for neighborly coexistence.

Sustainability aspects

The already high ecological standards of the western and central neighborhoods will also actually be bettered in the east. As well as establishing an innovative heating energy concept, nearly all buildings will meet the criteria of the highest standard of the HafenCity Ecolabel Version 3.0. At the same time, a car pool system overlapping neighborhood boundaries and located in underground garages is in preparation, featuring a growing proportion of electric vehicles.

The reworking of the Masterplan has further expanded and reinforced HafenCity’s function as a city. At the same time, the urban development area has been thought through to its easternmost point, with its new opportunities. This also shows that the Masterplan is not a blueprint or a plan to be strictly adhered to or realized. Instead it provides the point of departure for a complex strategy which will continually create new opportunities. After all, urban development is a process that leads inevitably to a reinvention of the city – which is redefined not only by its changing use.


Facts & figures

157 ha area, 7,500 homes, 45,000 jobs ... HafenCity and its development in figures

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