Baakenhafen: Living, Leisure and Work between Double Waterfronts

Baakenhafen, HafenCity’s largest harbor basin, will boast a dense blend of residential and leisure uses, open-air spaces and workplaces

Ground-breaking architectural planning decisions are generating a striking, densely built urban cityscape on the Elbe (© moka-studio)

On either side of HafenCity’s longest harbor basin, the coming years will see a sustainable “urban village” grow up in the midst of this big city. Around Baakenhafen basin a green neighborhood for residences and leisure will develop, with a variety of housing – some of it subsidized – to suit the needs of families, students and retired people, as well as many work places. Various social organizations have been involved in developing housing concepts.

The topographical center will be Baakenpark, an artificial promontory extending over 1.6 ha, surrounded by water, which will fulfill a wide range of functions: first as a green space and recreational area, but also as a connecting element between the northern and southern sections of the quarter. Step by step, development progresses. Construction on the first site in the northwest began in early summer 2015 and architectural designs for the area around Lola Rogge square were presented in November 2015, while major residential projects adjoining it to the west and east are taking shape. Architects presented their plans for them in January 2016. The tendering phase for the next six plots (82a/b, 83b, 86, 88a-d, 96a/b, 97) concluded successfully in December 2015. In the course of 2016 options will be granted for at least 800 units and commercial spaces with attractive double water aspects toward Baakenhafen basin and the Elbe – also further plots 96a/b, 97 and 99 bordering Elbbrücken neighborhood. This means that, with the exception of three building sites, all plots in the quarter will be accounted for by summer 2016. At the same time, construction work will begin on the northwestern entry to the neighborhood and on the central construction sections around Lola Rogge square. The whole neighborhood, apart from a few individual projects in the northeast, will probably be completed by 2021.


The urban planning competition for the neighborhood was won by APB Architekten (Hamburg) in August 2011. The moderately staggered height of the planned buildings is a particularly convincing feature. They will all be of four to seven stories, in semi-open blocks with a few smaller, open variations. On the Elbe side, the buildings in the southern sub-section will have spacious inner courtyards opening out toward the Elbe, but forming an incisive perimeter to the city.

The rhythmic arrangement of the plots to the north between the port and Versmannstrasse where the buildings have diverse uses also guarantees real protection against noise emissions from Versmannstrasse and the railroad line. They form a closed block frontage on the street side, with the buildings opening out toward Baakenhafen harbor basin. This urban planning mechanism shields courtyards facing the water from noise. Thus even apartments on the street enjoy a noise-protected aspect, since units facing the north only are not possible, but all apartments have a southern aspect.


An important step toward development of the neighborhood was the opening of the award-winning Baakenhafen bridge in August 2013. This 170 m link is much more than a local bridge. It opened the way for infrastructural development of eastern HafenCity and, during reconstruction of Versmannstrasse and work on extending the U4 subway, also channels traffic to and from the south of Hamburg. The central segment of the bridge can be lifted using the power of the tide, so that Hamburg’s larger historic ships can continue to reach Baakenhafen harbor.

Meanwhile development of the two plots at the northwest “entrance” to the neighborhood is going well. Building of the Campustower project (80), at the junction of Versmannstrasse/Grandeswerderstrasse, directly opposite Hafen-City University, begins in early summer 2016. It consists of a 15-story office tower and a building in a quiet situation by the water, in which one third subsidized homes and additional private apartments are planned. With total floor area of 22,000 sqm gross floor area (GFA), designs are by Delugan Meissl Associated Architects (Vienna) and sop architekten (Düsseldorf) and realization by GARBE Immobilien-Projekte GmbH. Building begins in 2016.

Next door, construction began in early summer 2015. DS-Bauconcept is building a 220-room family hotel here for Jufa-Gruppe with special facilities for children and teenagers, while Justus Grosse Projektentwicklung GmbH is developing around 150 publicly subsidized and privately financed apartments going up between Versmannstrasse and the harbor basin (81a/b). Planning for the project was by KBNK Architekten and PFP Architekten (both of Hamburg). An option to plan for the site on the east side of Gerda Gmelin square (83a) was granted to P&B Sportsdome Management GmbH in June 2015 for an out of the ordinary sports use. After the successful completion of the architectural competition in spring 2016, construction work will probably begin in 2017.


In the southern part of the neighborhood, an “urban village center” around Lola Rogge Platz will grow up, including an attractive market square with all functions essential to eastern HafenCity. After the first option was granted at the end of 2014 to GWG AG (Stuttgart) and Richard Ditting GmbH & Co. KG, architectural plans for building the center (91, 92a/b, 93) were presented in November 2015. A total 436 apartments with views of the Elbe and Baakenhafen basin will be built to plans by Lorenzen (Hamburg), Max Dudler (Berlin), KPW (Hamburg), Meck (Munich), Schenk + Waiblinger (Hamburg), as well as 6a Architects (London). The projects include multigenerational homes for families, students, retirees and people with disabilities. Around 70 percent will be subsidized residential construction with 14 percent of rentals below market price. As well as a supermarket, ground floors will accommodate smaller shops, a health and beauty supermarket and places to eat and drink. Directly adjoining it (building site 94a-c), a school and family center including a primary school and kindergarten will open by 2018. A public underground car park under Lola Rogge square will add to the small convenience shopping center’s attractions, also catering for parents bringing and collecting school and kindergarten pupils.

Immediately adjacent, the major residential housing projects to the west and east (89,90a and 95), are assuming contours. Here an unusually varied and socially mixed range of subsidized homes is being realized by six building cooperatives (Allgemeine Deutsche Schiffszimmerer-Genossenschaft, Altonaer Spar- u. Bauverein, Hamburger Wohnen, Bauverein der Elbgemeinden, FLUWOG-NORDMARK and HANSA Baugenossenschaft), various social welfare agencies, as well as four joint building ventures. The latter are the family joint building venture Tor zur Welt, whose eight-story hybrid wooden building will be the first large building made of wood in an inner city; the Arche Nora building joint venture, which groups women of different generations; the tenants’ building joint venture Gemeinsam älter werden, and Kammerkombinat, a building joint venture made up of people active in the arts and culture. Homes for families and older people are also the target groups for whom designs were conceived by the Hamburg firms Schaltraum, LRW, LA’KET, bof, Huke-Schubert Berge, Berlin architects KADEN + LAGER and florian krieger of Darmstadt. Social and therapeutic projects are also to be integrated. Construction of the much talked-about Stadt für Alle will start in 2017.


At the end of April 2012 Atelier Loidl (Berlin) was announced winner of the international open space competition for Baakenhafen neighborhood. The winning design cleverly blends multiple leisure uses with the special maritime atmosphere of Baakenhafen quarter. At Baakenhafen’s heart is the 1.6 ha Baakenpark peninsula which will offer a playground, play and community building, trees and grassy expanses for recreational activities and relaxing from fall 2017. With the successful conclusion of landfill works, extensive landscaping of the open spaces began in summer 2015. A footbridge to the north to a design by Hamburg architects Gerkan, Marg und Partner (gmp) and Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering of Stuttgart, which will be inserted in fall 2016, will aid the spatial integration of the two land areas. Once Versmannstrasse is opened to traffic again from 2018, a 30 m-wide Elbe promenade leading along the river to Entenwerder island and integrating the Elbe cycle route, will be developed gradually.


A clue to the overall upmarket character to be expected in Baakenhafen is in the architecture of the six HafenCity Waterhouses, designed by Japanese Pritzker prizewinner Shigeru Ban and Szyszkowitz-Kowalski from Graz. With their rather fragile outlines, the residential towers, a modern interpretation of living on water, merge seamlessly into maritime Baakenhafen’s architectural vernacular.


In terms of transport, Baakenhafen neighborhood will have excellent connections. Construction of access infrastructure and renovation of the historic docks began back in 2011. By 2017, the central road artery, Versmannstrasse, will have been raised to more than 8 m above sea level; flood-protected and geared to future traffic demands. At the same time as the road works, the U4 subway line is being extended from HafenCity University station to Elbbrücken station. Work is going on apace: the tracks and subway and rapid transit stations at Elbbrücken will be completed at the end of 2018. At that point the U4 line will also connect eastern neighborhoods of HafenCity to the Hamburg subway network, allowing transfers to and from the rapid transit S-Bahn. The stretch between HafenCity University and Elbbrücken stations will be around 1.3 km long and will take about two minutes. The subway line will run underneath the then raised Versmannstrasse as far as Baakenwerder Strasse and then resurfaces toward Elbbrücken at about the level of the bridges.

To ensure that forward-looking transport infrastructure will influence the very densely built area of eastern HafenCity, not only will Baakenhafen and Elbbrücken have a good range of subway and bus services but they will also be a kind of laboratory for low-pollution mobility. Building developers will provide a reduced ratio of 0.4 parking slots per residence, which will save on the cost of a second underground garage level and means apartments can be offered more cheaply. Developers are also obliged to see that at least 30 percent of parking spaces are fitted with recharging infrastructure for e-vehicles and to participate in developing car-sharing concepts serving areas beyond the neighborhood, so that all households have access to vehicles without having to own one – and do not need to use public parking slots on the street. In 2016, tenders specifying a proportion of e-cars will be invited for a car-sharing system; the chosen operator will be announced in 2017.