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Milestone for southern Überseequartier in HafenCity: All architectural designs now defined

Southern Überseequartier is to get a new architectural appearance. Together with international and German firms of architects, Unibail-Rodamco developed new architectural designs 2015 for all 11 buildings in the neighborhood in cooperation with HafenCity Hamburg GmbH and Hamburg’s Ministry of Urban Development and Housing.

Eleven buildings in a new architectural guise – an exciting new urban picture.

Eleven buildings in a new architectural guise – an exciting new urban picture. (© Unibail-Rodamco/moka-studio)

The multifaceted interplay between the individual architectural designs now generates a unified urban panorama whose spectacular climax is a waterfront on the River Elbe. With its diverse, integrated uses and interaction between different buildings – red brick in the center and light-colored façades by the Elbe – Überseequartier forms the exciting core of a new downtown. Involved in the project are internationally renowned architects such as Pritzker prizewinner Christian de Portzamparc and UNStudio as well as eminent architects from Hamburg and elsewhere in Germany. A new land-use plan is being drafted that will form the basis for building applications and for granting approvals. Unibail-Rodamco will begin construction 2017; completion of the central areas of southern Überseequartier can be expected by 2021. 

With a mix of retail, catering, residential and entertainment uses, plus the cruise terminal and hotel and office space, Überseequartier is the commercial heart of HafenCity. Northern Überseequartier is almost complete and boasts a multitude of shops and restaurants, a hotel and apartments. Development of the southern part was delayed, but the breakthrough came here a year ago. December 2014, Unibail-Rodamco – Europe's leading listed commercial property company – took over responsibility for overall development and completion. Throughout Europe the company creates inspiring spaces where modern design is coupled with outstanding locations and a high level of comfort. The result is places where people feel at ease and want to linger. Around €860 million is being invested in Überseequartier, currently the company’s most important development project. A new place to live and work is emerging on 260,000 m², of which about 80,500 m² is for retail, about 55,000 m² for residential and about 65,000 m² for office uses. Culture and entertainment will cover about 12,000 m², catering about 8,000 m² and hotels about 40,000 m² (all amounts in GFA – gross floor area).

In the course of the change to Unibail-Rodamco as new project leader, the use concept and urban-planning structure of southern Überseequartier were comprehensively reworked. The opportunity was taken to make the retail component more attractive, to reduce the share of office space and increase residential areas, and to integrate the cruise terminal better into the urban landscape. Retail space in southern Überseequartier will be accommodated on three stories – basement, upper ground and first floor – with circular walkways on the two lower levels. This will make a mix of store sizes possible and give scope for generous storefronts. Buildings south of the subway will be protected against wind and rain by a glass roof and altered positioning. The shopping experience will be greatly improved as a result, even though – in comparison to a fully air-conditioned mall – the open thoroughfare between the buildings will be maintained.

Major retail anchor tenants, new entertainment facilities, including a large multiplex movie theater with more than ten screens and 2,700 seats, a high-efficiency attractive cruise terminal and, last but not least, a new waterfront with architecturally outstanding buildings will all ensure a high visitor footfall in Überseequartier, including midweek and in the evening. In turn, the smaller and medium-sized stores and many street-level sites in the whole of HafenCity will benefit.

Through its open urbanistic structure, with no climatic boundaries and no “indoors” or “outdoors”, central Überseequartier will exert a strong integrative force on the whole of HafenCity. At the heart of HafenCity, Überseequartier activates connections on foot from the Elbphilharmonie along the Kaiserkai embankment and from the point of Strandkai to Überseequartier as well as the pathways between the Speicherstadt and southern Überseequartier and the promenades around Magdeburger Hafen basin.

Eleven buildings in a new architectural guise – an exciting new urban picture

After Unibail-Rodamco assumed responsibility for completing southern Überseequartier, 2015 saw intensive activity to push ahead with developing the neighborhood, bringing Unibail-Rodamco’s expertise to bear on the urban context. As contractually agreed, all the building designs were refined, partly through workshops and partly through competitions with invited architects; the plans for all buildings had to be adapted to current use requirements. 

As well as Christian de Portzamparc, who is also responsible for the design of the Cruise Center, the other architects involved in reworking the plans were Carsten Roth Architekt, léonwohlhage, kbnk, Hild und K Architekten, Böge Lindner K2 Architekten, Lederer Ragnarsdóttir Oei, UNStudio plus BB+GG arquitectes for the open spaces, Saguez & Partners for the interior design and Sobek Design for the roof construction (see the press pack for a site plan and details of the architecture).

HPP International was chosen as the master planner for coordinating the individual projects and making sure the high design standards are met. As is generally the case in HafenCity and for all of Unibail-Rodamco’s projects, high sustainability criteria are met in southern Überseequartier, too. All of the buildings have either HafenCity gold Ecolabel certification or meet the international BREEAM Excellent Standard.

Integration of living and entertainment into the overall concept

A significant change from the original concept for southern Überseequartier is the reduction in the proportion of office space in favor of apartments. The greater part of the homes will be built north of the subway tracks to avoid conflicts of use with the cruise terminal and the late-night entertainment scene.

There is a completely new design for the residential and commercial building opposite Sumatrakontor south of Überseeallee (plot 1, Carsten Roth Architekt). The façade appears interlaced and provides for good visibility from all apartments. A five-story residential block front closes off the south of the U-shaped building from the square. It gives an appropriate degree of privacy in this lively neighborhood, accentuated by a roof garden.

A further option for providing a high degree of residential quality is exploited by the neighboring building to the east (plot 2, léonwohlhage). The architects have designed a building where the apartments are grouped around a generously-proportioned private courtyard. Homes can be well integrated into the ensemble of buildings accommodating the cruise terminal, hotel and stores. The wholly new design for a residential high-rise to the north (plot 3, KBNK) foresees a building on a plinth housing retail uses; it offers homes with views of the park and the water in a highly urban environment.

Through the reworking of the overall concept for southern Überseequartier, the leisure and entertainment uses in Überseequartier have also been more clearly defined, and the plans for several buildings have had to be adapted as a result. One example is the office and commercial building (plot 5, Böge Lindner K2 Architekten) right next to the subway exit on the square. This building is a prelude to the central retail, movie theater and catering ensemble. Generous openings at street level and the glassed-in foyer on the second upper story give the building a strong presence and an inviting air.

Directly adjacent to the south is the largest building in the retail and leisure complex (plot 9, Hild und K Architekten). It unites retailing, the big movie theater with more than ten screens, and a catering area. As befits its entertainment use, the building’s façade features free-hanging, curtain-like brick panels.

New Elbe panorama for Hamburg’s city center

A complex of the cruise terminal, two 60-meter towers in the center and a sculptural 70-meter high office building by Magdeburger Hafen basin rounds off southern Überseequartier where it meets the Elbe, setting a strong stamp on the cityscape. Here the characteristic brick style gives way to light, glass façades that reflect the river, the port and the sky.

The function and form of the cruise terminal, designed by Christian de Portzamparc (plot 7), have been reworked to make it very efficient and link it superbly with the whole neighborhood. The complex building ensemble encompasses supplementary uses that are cleverly connected – in addition to the Cruise Center itself, with its underground bus station, car park and taxi access, two hotels and retail space have been planned in.

The cruise terminal complex interacts with the 70-meter high office building (plot 11) at the entrance to Magdeburger Hafen basin, also designed by Christian de Portzamparc. Its three sculptural elements reach skywards, their form reminiscent of the facets of cut gemstones, reflecting the water and the sky. The building accommodates a large part of the office space in southern Überseequartier, but there will also be public uses at street level.

Between these two expressive buildings, and interacting with both, stand the two c. 60-meter high towers of UNStudio (plot 10). They form a striking finish to Überseeboulevard where it opens out toward the Elbe. The city meets the river here in the building’s crystalline, geometric glass façades.

Linking elements – glass roof and open spaces

A glass roof construction, developed by the well-known engineering company Sobek Design, shields the central shopping areas south of the U4 subway stop from wind and rain. The highly complex glass and metal construction also serves as a link between the striking architecture of the individual buildings. Supported on slim stainless steel pillars, the glass canopy appears to float above the buildings.

A further linking element is the open space concept. Since 2006, all the public spaces in Überseequartier and around Magdeburger Hafen have been laid out to a design by the Catalan landscape architect Beth Galí and her BB+GG arquitectes company. Southern Überseequartier, too, will follow the same design principles. The characteristic striped paving in reddish, gray and light-colored natural stone slabs leads visitors along Überseeboulevard and the other axes down to the Elbe. The plan is to use these characteristic materials in the partially roofed-in areas, too, so that they will continue their guiding role here.

What next for southern Überseequartier?

At the same time as the architecture is being specified, a new land-use plan is also being drafted. In the second half of 2016 the new plan is likely to have reached a stage where it can form the basis for building applications and granting approvals (“Planreife”: Section 33, Clause 1 of the BauGB planning code).

The first construction stage, excavating the big foundation pit, is expected to begin 2017. Completion of the central areas, with retailing, catering, entertainment, the cruise terminal, hotel and part of the office and residential accommodation, is projected for 2021.

Dr. Dorothee Stapelfeldt, Minister for Urban Development and Housing:
“Another milestone has been reached in the architectural and urban development of southern Überseequartier. With its high standard of architecture, its open, urban character and its attractive cruise terminal, southern Überseequartier will have a positive impact on the whole of HafenCity and be a gain for the Hamburg population, visitors and tourists alike. A successful Überseequartier will strengthen the integration of the existing city center with HafenCity.” 

Prof. Jürgen Bruns-Berentelg, Chief Executive Officer, HafenCity Hamburg GmbH
“The strong retail character of southern Überseequartier, with major anchor tenants, new retail concepts and a diversity of medium-sized and smaller stores, is the precondition for creating a mixed HafenCity, lively all year round – the core of an urbane city open almost round the clock. Such a strong increase in inner-city retailing will be good for Hamburg, making the city-center more diverse and attractive for Hamburg residents and visitors.” 

Dr. Karl Reinitzhuber, Chief Executive Officer, Unibail-Rodamco Germany GmbH
“The development of Überseequartier marks the creation of an exciting new place to live and work centered on retailing, lifestyle and entertainment. By implementing Unibail-Rodamco’s innovations, we will set a new European standard and also send out new impulses for future urban retailing and entertainment areas where people feel at ease and want to linger.” 

Ulrich Wölfer, Chief Development Officer, Unibail-Rodamco Germany GmbH
“We are delighted to have so many well-known architects, such as Pritzker prizewinner Christian de Portzamparc and UNStudio, on board what is Europe’s most ambitious inner-city development project – Überseequartier. Together with Unibail-Rodamco and HafenCity Hamburg GmbH, they are working to create the highest degree of living, working, shopping and entertainment quality right beside the Elbe.”