City Topography

Versatile open spaces in Überseequartier

Central Überseequartier abounds with contrasting open spaces. Planning of the pulsating heart of HafenCity focuses on Überseeboulevard, but more private places are tucked away too

The illustration shows the future Überseeboulevard

Überseeboulevard wends its way through the neighborhood, like a meandering river, and is reserved for pedestrians (© Michael Behrendt; Source: Überseequartier Beteiligungs GmbH) Start slideshow

Contrasting open spaces balance the dense mix of uses in Überseequartier: sometimes they open out onto spacious boulevards, plazas or terraces, sometimes they offer the chance to escape the crowds; sometimes they invite people to stroll, other times they invite a rest. An international competition to design the open spaces in Überseequartier, on the two banks of Magdeburger Hafen harbor and in St. Annenplatz was launched in 2006. The Barcelona-based architect Beth Galí and her office BB + GG Arquitectes found the winning concept, which includes surfacing the ground throughout these urban spaces in brown, gray and reddish granite. In Überseeboulevard, the granite decoration is arranged in longitudinal stripes, while around St. Annenplatz and Magdeburger Hafen harbor the stripes go from side to side. The forecourt of the International Maritime Museum Hamburg was the first urban space in the area to be opened.

The 12-meter-wide waterside promenade parallel with Osakaallee is taking recognizable shape. Ramps, steps and clumps of green shrubs connect the flood-secure road level with Magdeburger Hafen. A waterside pavilion, build into the height difference, will eventually house a catering business. In 2011, the year when Hamburg becomes European Green Capital, an exhibition illustrating the sustainability aspects of HafenCity will be on show.

Along Magdeburger Hafen harbor and Brooktorhafen, its northerly continuation, top quality connections are taking shape – both through promenades, which completely ring the water spaces, and new squares and bridges. From fall 2010, a 30-meter stone sofa on Brooktorkai promenade has offered a comfortable view over the harbor basin. A new pedestrian bridge  to be put in place in early 2011 will link this promenade to Überseequartier. An architectonic highlight on the eastern bank of Magdeburger harbor is a two-story arcade space, which will be available for use from 2012. This "city loggia" opening towards the water will then run parallel to a new pier constructed on piles along Magdeburger Hafen basin.

Besides Magdeburger Hafen harbor, the Überseeboulevard  is a core element of open space planning. The boulevard runs from north to south through the whole quarter like a meandering river, using curving sidewalks and façades to create a varied urban environment. Throughout the area – in other words, also on the promenades on the banks of Magdeburger Hafen harbor and in St. Annenplatz – architect Beth Galí continually plays with different levels, using ramps, steps or terraces to link differences in height and create more sheltered urban spaces in the otherwise busy quarter.

Lighting of urban spaces is a crucial aspect for the architect. Seating benches, for instance, are sometimes lit from underneath; this produces specks of light, which cleverly echo the layout of Überseeboulevard. On St. Annenplatz, passers-by can even switch lamps on and off themselves. This will impart a feeling of privacy, even in the beating heart of HafenCity.