Fine-grained and Alive: HafenCity's First Neighborhood

Am Sandtorkai/Dalmannkai in northwest HafenCity was the first quarter to be completed

The aerial photography shows the Am Sandtorkai / Dalmannkai quarter

The Traditional Ship Harbor in Sandtorhafen harbor forms the heart of the Am Sandtorkai / Dalmannkai urban ensemble. A sport boat marina is planned to the south of the quarter in Grasbrookhafen basin, which is currently being remodeled (© ELBE&FLUT)

The coexistence of urbanity with village-like life on the waterfront is what gives this neighborhood its real charm. Within the space of just six years, Am Sandtorkai/Dalmannkai was the first neighborhood in HafenCity to be completed, in spring 2009. Sandtorhafen harbor basin is the neighborhood’s core, with the pontoons of the Traditional Ship Harbor providing a floating plaza with moorings for up to 30 historical vessels.

To the north of the harbor is Sandtorkai with the listed Speicherstadt on its other side. To the south is the Dalmannkai promontory and Grasbrookhafen harbor.

The views from the eight buildings on Sandtorkai and the 15 buildings on Dalmannkai encompass the city center, as well as the River Elbe.

Open, multidimensional topography

The urban spaces extend over two levels. While all buildings and roads are built on artificially raised, flood-protected bases, around 8m above sea level, embankment promenades remain at 4 to 5.5m above sea level. The difference in height is particularly noticeable to the north of Sandtorkai. There unusually, in consideration of the adjacent Speicherstadt, the road (Am Sandtorkai) lies at a low level, and the new basement foundations on the other side resemble a wall.

The Traditional Ship Harbor pontoons provide a third level of urban perception which rises and falls with the tide twice daily by more than 3m. A further level still – the fourth – is emerging on Dalmannkai point in the shape of the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall: its publicly accessible plaza, at a height of 37m, has spectacular views of HafenCity and the Elbe. Until its completion in 2016, the Elbphilharmonie will be the neighborhood’s only building still under construction.

Multidimensional topography continues on the Magellan and Marco Polo Terraces, the largest squares in the locality and in the whole of HafenCity: like an amphitheater, the 5,600 sqm of the Magellan  Terraces descend in a series of steps to the water. The 7,800 sqm Marco Polo Terraces with their grass islands and wooden decking invite passersby to take a break under the trees. Vasco da Gama Plaza, the smaller third square, is a neighborhood square with a basketball court.

Almost all other plazas and promenades in this neighborhood – and the whole western end of HafenCity – were planned by EMBT of Barcelona. Basements and promenades on Sandtorkai, however, were  designed by BHF Landschaftsarchitekten, which won the “best projects of 1989-2008” award from the “Architecture in Hamburg” yearbook in 2008. The cityscape itself reflects the variety in the quarter: on Dalmannkai alone, 15 buildings were realized by 27 developers and 26 firms of architects, tocreateadequate diversity.


Neighborhood profile

  • Area 10.9 hectares
    Total GFA: 261,000 sqm
  • Jobs and commercial uses
    Jobs: approx. 2,700
    Uses: corporate, offices, retail, catering
  • Homes
    746 (excl. Elbphilharmonie)
  • Special institutions
    Traditional Ship Harbor
  • Development timeframe
    2003 to 2009