Central, diverse and ground-breaking

East of Magdeburger Hafen, a very disparate quarter is coming to life, with many trailblazing buildings and uses

A lively and heterogeneous quarter has evolved at the heart of HafenCity between Magdeburger Hafen, Brooktorhafen and Am Lohsepark neighborhood whose very special atmosphere is not just due to HafenCity University (HCU) with its 2,500 students and various other pioneering undertakings. The urban planning concept for Elbtorquartier picks up on very different building typologies. While to the south a 70 m office tower has been built, to the east an approximately 170 m block structure has been created, tying into the existing built structure along Hongkongstrasse. Bounding the eastern side of Magdeburger Hafen, it enables public use of the whole basement level alongside the harbor basin. Moreover it is the first HafenCity neighborhood in which to a large extent the buildings are very sustainable and certified with the Ecolabel gold standard. From the Speicherstadt, a footway leads over León-Brücke bridge, designed by Austrian architects Dietmar Feichtinger and WTM Engineers of Hamburg, directly into the listed Kaispeicher B warehouse building. This is the oldest building in HafenCity, erected in 1879 to designs by Wilhelm Emil Meerwein and Bernhard Hanssen, and was thoroughly remodeled using Hamburg funds to plans by architects MRLV Markovic Ronai Voss (Hamburg). Since summer 2008 it has housed the private International Maritime Museum Hamburg of the Peter Tamm Sen. Foundation. 

The passageway through the museum leads out onto a spacious forecourt on whose waterfront the first harbor launch landing stage in central HafenCity was opened in summer 2012. The adjoining promenade on the pier in front of the Elbe Arcades along Magdeburger Hafen is especially low and, after passing under the Magdeburger Brücke bridge, leads across Buenos Aires quay and on into Baakenhafen neighborhood. This means that walkers and cyclists enjoy an unobstructed, car-free route from the Elbe embankment at Baakenhafen through to Ericcuspitze. In the process they pass over the renovated Busanbrücke bridge crossing Magdeburger Hafen basin, the most significant east-west link for pedestrians and cyclists in central HafenCity. The historic crossing connects western and central neighborhoods with eastern HafenCity. Like the surrounding promenades, this open space designed by Beth Galí (Barcelona) is also paved with natural stone in a stripe pattern and is intensively used both in general and for many events.

Unique Elbe Arcades

In the northern part of the neighborhood, the customs head office for the City of Hamburg moved into its new location designed by Winking Froh Architekten (Hamburg/Berlin) in 2011. Directly opposite, the newly built annex to expand the corporate headquarters of Gebr. Heinemann was finished in summer 2016. The design, by Gerkan, Marg und Partner of Hamburg, attaches a glass connecting building to the existing historic Heinemann warehouse, linking it to the new extension whose underground garage, six floors of offices and two recessed upper stories match up to the standards of the gold HafenCity Ecolabel Version 2.0.

South of Busanbrücke, the Elbe Arcades opened at the end of 2013, built to a design by Bob Gysin + Partner BGP Architekten (Zurich). At the time of building it was one of the most innovative and ecological buildings in Europe. A special feature of the complex, meeting the requirements of the HafenCity gold eco-label, is the 170-meter-long flood-protected public arcade integrated into the building, which runs parallel to the Elbtorpromenade along the entire eastern waterfront of Magdeburger Hafen harbor. On the roofs are gardens and play area.

The 130 apartments allow a wide variety of uses – from multigenerational homes through to residential and workspace lofts, as well as duplexes, and wheel-chair friendly units for seniors. Some of the apartments have attached ateliers, picking up on the Elbe Arcades’ character as a center of design in Hamburg. 

Exciting users

Several users are promoting this creative aspect: designxport, WunderCar Mobility and well-known designer Peter Schmidt and his agency PSBZ are among several creative players and start-ups that have chosen to locate to the Elbe Arcades. Thus a showcase for the creative sector has emerged on Magdeburger Hafen; just across the way, on the east side of Hongkongstrasse, an increasing number of agencies and start-ups are moving into the existing buildings.

The southern part of the building is used by Greenpeace Deutschland and its subsidiaries. The environmental organization clusters various local and nationwide activities under one roof. Publicly accessible exhibits in the foyer showcase Greenpeace working topics and campaigns. The highlight is a 6 m totem pole – a present from Nuxalk Indians as a thank-you for Greenpeace’s work in their homeland. This part of the building, too, has an exemplary energy concept, combining high efficiency, low consumption and very high deployment of renewable energies, including geothermal and photovoltaic energy, as well as the wind rotors on the roof. 

University with Elbe views 

A key role in neighborhood is played by the HafenCity University newbuild, which opened in April 2014 at the entrance to Baakenhafen. Designed by architects Code Unique (Dresden), the aesthetically outstanding newbuild opens out simultaneously to the plaza in front of it, to Baakenhafen and to Lohsepark. 

Right next door between HCU and Magdeburger Hafen, ECE of Hamburg and Strabag Real Estate completed the Watermark, Freeport and Shipyard building ensemble in 2018, offering around 32,000 m² GFA on a 9,100 m² site. Designs by Störmer Murphy and Partners (Hamburg), provide for an iconic landmark office tower around 70 m high containing 18 stories. The project at the water’s edge includes two further buildings with space for some 46 apartments and ground-floor public amenities. The first major office tenants include the Hamburg branch of the IT service provider DATEV and Kühne + Nagel’s IT Services. The setting of the ensemble and the neighboring university creates a very special public space to the southwest towards the Elbe.

Ecumenical forum next to Musicians’ House 

Other excellent projects such as the Ecumenical Forum on Shanghaiallee have become part of life in the quarter. Since summer 2012 a total of 21 Christian churches have been behind this joint religious project – unique in Germany – with its meeting place and café on the publicly accessible ground floor, and chapel as a haven of tranquility. The ecumenical residential community that lives there is also a colorful mixture of young and old, singles and families, from various churches and cultural spheres who are together living out a contemporary form of faith in everyday life. Currently about 50 people are living together under one roof. Right next door, the Musicians’ House was completed in fall 2014. Artistic and creative people can live out their dream of creative interaction and collectively making music within their own soundproofed and flexibly usable four walls. 

Shanghaiallee, developed as a central four-lane artery between the Speicherstadt and Überseeallee, is nevertheless becoming an urban business and residential street. In the interests of road safety, since its final completion in fall 2016, bicycle traffic on this metropolitan boulevard with its three rows of tree planting has been channeled along special cycle lanes beside the roadway, which dovetail into the surrounding cycle path network. Ancillary spaces have been adapted to urban demands: with generously proportioned sidewalks with opportunities for special uses, bicycle parking stands, delivery and handicapped parking bays, and several paid parking slots primarily for clients of surrounding shops. Elbtorquartier also has very good public transport connections. Messberg U1 subway station is in the adjacent mercantile district to the north, outside HafenCity, while to the south the new U4 subway line began regular services in 2013 to HafenCity University station, which has won awards for its lighting concept.

On-site HafenCity 


Ten sometimes very differing quarters make up HafenCity; each has its own individual profile - and brings new qualities to Hamburg’s city center.

Urban development


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