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D-Hamburg Holzhafen, Office Building "East"
With the conclusion of the Bauforum in 1985, Hamburg’s then senior construction director, Egbert Kossak, ushered in a period of revitalization of Hamburg’s northern Elbe River banks. Architects from around the world were invited to submit new ideas for redeveloping Hamburg-Altona’s harbor rim. Economic structural change had a direct impact on port activities, offering a unique chance for the city to grow closer to the Elbe River. The Holzhafen is the oldest inner harbor in Hamburg and lies between the ferry terminal and the famous Hamburg fish market. New residential and office buildings built along the Grosse Elbstrasse offer grand views of the Elbe River and the city’s port. The prize-winning design, selected in an international competition and jointly submitted by ASTOC, Kees Christiaanse, and Christian Herbert, was later modified to reduce office space and offer more apartment space. At the Holzhafen itself, a continuous street with public squares by the banks of the Elbe River was laid out. ASTOC, Kees Christiaanse, and Christian Herbert envisaged three new buildings in their design: two office buildings with clinker facades that flank a twenty-story glazed residential tower, making up a continuous waterfront.

Traditionally, there has always been a narrow strip of warehouses between Hamburg’s inner city and the Elbe River, as found in the famous Speicherstadt, for example. The warehouses are usually clad in red clinker, a motif that has been incorporated into the design of the new building.

The urban planning design allows the massive warehouses to playfully alternate with the adjoining open spaces along the quayside edge of the Elbe River. The two brick office buildings elegantly frame the crystal-like glazed residential tower. The ensemble reflects a planning principle originally developed under the leadership of Senate Building Director Kossak that suggests the design of a “string of pearls” between the Elbe River and its sloping banks along Hamburg’s Waterkant. The idea was to reconnect Hamburg with its waterfront again.

Providing 16,000 square meters of gross floor area, the office building “East” was the first of the three buildings to be completed. It was envisioned as “a window on the harbor” while inversely also becoming “a window on the city.” The new office building with its meandering floor plan architecturally balances the neighboring historical warehouses and the new buildings with its clinker facade and seven floors. Three atriums ensure transparency while providing the workplaces inside with unique views of the river. All three courtyards are differently designed, creating diverse perspectives and lighting conditions. The central courtyard, envisaged to be the entrance hall, is larger and more prestigious than the two other courtyards, serving as both central access point and as the “spatial visiting card” of the building.

Restaurants and shops, located on the first floor, and a wooden footpath in front of the building produce a lively urban flair in the entire Holzhafen district. The building has an impressive presence without obstructing views of the Elbe River. With its sculptural shape, it symbolically links the city with the water. The building facade is perforated to allow for views of the city from the inside. The clinker that has been used to clad the façade also covers the undersides of the bridge-like building elements and the floors. These brick surfaces are designed to be like a “skin.” Pleasantly textured and colored, the inside and outside ‘skins’ are, however, not different from each other while extensive detailing of the ‘skin’ has been deliberately dispensed with, making it rather discrete and low-key. Even the attics and window sills have been prefabricated from the same clinker to maximize homogeneity and continuity of the facades. This also applies to the elastic cable-suspended and frameless glazed facade that fronts the central entrance hall. At the same time, the facades as a whole appear as if consisting only of stone and glass.

For the event of a storm surge and a subsequent flood which may regularly occur at the site of the Holzhafen, the planners devised an elegant pedestrian bridge that leads to an office building (belonging to the same client) on the other side of the Grosse Elbstrasse, at the foot of the Elbe River slopes, that would provide employees with an alternative route to their place of work “from above.”

In collaboration with Kees Christiaanse, Rotterdam;
Local representative: Kunst + Herbert, Hamburg;
Photographer: HG Esch, Hennef

Awards:
Architecture in Hamburg: Best Projects 1989-2008, annual, category "Büro– und Gewerbe";
DIE WELT / BDA Hamburg Publikums Architektur Preis 2005,
third prize;
BDA Hamburg Architektur Preis 2005, second prize;
Brick Award 2004, Recognition;
Architekturpreis der Hypo Real Estate Stiftung für vorbildliche Gewerbebauten 2004;
Bauwerk des Jahres 2002 – Architekten- und Ingenieurverein Hamburg e.V., honouring

PROJECT INFORMATION
Client
B&L Group, Hamburg

Planning and Realisation
Competition 1994, First Prize
Planning 1999-2000
Realization 2000-2003

Dimensions
GFA: 16.000 sqm

Employees
Anja Dick, Christian Dieckmann, Niels Frerichmann, Johannes Groote, Christian Herbert, Leo Oorschot, Oliver Schmidt, Robert Wetzels

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