A city district for the whole family

Parents who want to bring up their children but continue their careers constantly face a lot of challenges in doing so. Three pairs of parents describe how they are able to combine both roles

Photo shows the Enge family on Magellan Terraces

The Enge family love the short distances in HafenCity, the high quality landscaping and all-round childcare: "Anyone living in - and with - HafenCity, will soon get to love this part of town" (© Bina Engel) Start slideshow

When parents are looking for a new area to live in, they usually know exactly what they want. This even more the case if both partners are architects: "The most important objectives of urban development and for family friendliness are everyday satisfaction and pleasure - of parents and their children - and at all ages and in every stage of development," believes Stefan Schmid. He and his wife Nina and their two children moved to HafenCity at the beginning of 2008.

"And that is extremely complex. You cannot create family friendliness by just providing a whole lot of play areas." But of course play and adventure areas are indispensable too, which is why Schmid got involved in landscaping the Treasure Island playground on Grosser Grasbrook on a voluntary basis and designed the play house, opened in 2009, for free. "A neighborhood only takes on an individual identity if people get involved in it," explains the architect.

And getting involved is important to him, which is why he sacrificed the time to do it, despite the heavy workload in his architect’s practice and as a father. He and his wife have organized their life down to a tee: their office rooms are close to home in the city center; the kids go to kindergarten in the morning and both parents take care of them afternoons. "We think HafenCity is great for families," say the Schmids. "We can live here exactly the way we wanted for ourselves and our children: urban, close to the center, by the water, with wonderful open spaces and a lot of events." What more can you wish for?

"After all, family-friendly life doesn’t have to be in the middle of nature," says freelance management consultant Elisabeth Mürenseer. She and her partner Sebastian Franke moved to HafenCity from the suburb of Winterhude with their two children in 2006 and were at last able to fulfill their dream of inner-city life on the waterfront.

"The wealth of public spaces in the new district is a great plus for children, especially. They can drive around in their pedal car or romp about better than in any other central residential area." The infrastructure is also good for families, she says. The elder of her two daughters goes to the new HafenCity day-care center in Katharinenschule. Mürenseer and Franke also took an active part in the development of the playground and play house.

"Having the play house means that there is somewhere for the children even if the weather’s bad," Mürenseer comments.  And supposing you run out of something in still emergent HafenCity? "Then it’s a quick trip to the shops into the city center - I’ve never lived so centrally before."

Short distances are also something that Norbert and Susanne Enge appreciate, too. Until recently the SAP project manager and his advertising agency account executive wife had one and a half hours of travel with their son every day. Now he is going to Katharinenschule school - just around the corner. "In the mornings we drop him off at the school, which just takes a few minutes, and then go to work on foot or by bike," say the couple, who live in Kaiserkai. "We’re increasingly leaving the car in the garage."

Even when a business appointment lasts longer than expected, the Enges have a solution: "The Katharinenschule school day-care center will look after our son until 6 or 7 pm; if necessary, CompanyKids, a back-up service in the same building, will take over for even longer."

From the Enges’ point of view, HafenCity is not only growing fast in area terms, it is also becoming ever more family-oriented: "Green spaces are so well looked after here. Our own garden, including a large area of lawn, has been laid out now; the trees are growing and gradually embellishing HafenCity with more green."

Does the couple have any advice for other families thinking of moving into the new district? "As a family you have to reorganize your everyday life and look for new leisure pursuits - and leave routine behind once in a while," advise the Endes. "Anyone living in - and with - HafenCity will soon get to love this part of town."