City Topography

Open space in western HafenCity

The western end of this new part of town is blessed with a variety of urban open spaces: squares, large and small, promenades running beside and onto the water, as well as two leafy parks. Large parts of the area were landscaped by Spanish architects and most of them are already finished

Photo shows the Marco Polo Terraces

Marco Polo Terraces in summer (© ELBE&FLUT) Start slideshow

Decisions about landscaping the open spaces in western HafenCity were already a done deal in 2002, after EMBT Arquitectes Associats of Barcelona won the preceding architectural competition. The interplay of land and water and the influence of the tides as a design element were imaginatively interpreted into the layout by the planners. The rather rigid structures left over from old port uses now form a contrast to lighter Mediterranean touches.
Two large plazas are already in place at the inland ends of the Sandtorhafen (Magellan Terraces) and Grasbrookhafen (Marco Polo Terraces) harbor basins. The names of famous discoverers chosen reflect Hamburg’s traditional role as gateway to the world. The use of the word "terrace" describes their form: the 4,700 sq. m Magellan Terraces, completed in 2005, for example, descend step by step, amphitheater style, to the water’s edge.

The view from here takes in the future Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall, the River Elbe and, of course, the Traditional Ship Harbor in Sandtorhafen. The harbor itself is part of the open space concept: historic bridges lead down to a specially made landscape of pontoons 340 m long that gently swing on the water. This 5,600 sq. m floating plaza rises and falls with the tides so that it always gives access to the water. It also offers permanent moorings for around 20 seaworthy historic watercraft.

Unlike the Magellan Terraces, which have an urban look, the Marco Polo Terraces, opened in 2007, make a softer and greener impression. Grassy islands and wooden decking are an invitation to stop awhile and sit or recline. Sweet gum, swamp cypress and willow trees offer shade or shelter from the rain. The square, which covers 6,400 sq. m, has views of the River Elbe and Grasbrookhafen which will accommodate a sport boat marina from 2011. The first open spaces on Strandkai lead on from the Marco Polo Terraces. This first completed part of HafenCity that directly adjoins the River Elbe is dominated by a generous open-air flight of steps.

Smaller more private squares, promenades and steps have been laid out on Dalmannkai. On Vasco da Gama square, a neighborhood square for residents and visitors alike, a basketball court is the focus, whilst Dalmannkai is planted with flowering cherry trees. A unifying element of many of EMBT’s urban spaces here is the clinker brick external walls of flood-secure basements, whose designs often incorporate motifs from the Speicherstadt.

Also already completed are the designs by BHF, a landscape architects’ firm from nearby Kiel. Their plinths and walkways lining Am Sandtorkai form the interface between HafenCity and the historic Speicherstadt – for which they were awarded a prize for being amongst the best projects of 1989-2008 by the annual publication "Architecture in Hamburg".

But green spaces also embellish the built environment. In the west, Sandtorpark and Grasbrookpark are part of the EMBT open space concept. Sandtorpark, with mounds, trees and a grassy play area, is the unifying urban planning element for a variety of uses; the materials and ground surface design of the Magellan Terraces is continued around the open space surrounding the park and the neighboring buildings. The 850 qm Treasure Island playground at ViewPoint was opened in the summer of 2008; when Grasbrook park is ready in 2013, it will be replaced by a new and significantly larger play area there.