Elbbrücken: A Metropolitan Business and Residential Neighborhood with a View

HafenCity’s sensational eastern threshold, on the waterside and close to lush Entenwerder island, will also make a very attractive residential neighborhood

View across Baakenhafen to the future center of Elbbrücken neighborhood, to the winning urban planning concept by Hosoya Schaefer Architects (Zurich) (© Hosoy Schaefer Architects)

Elbbrücken neighborhood, named for Hamburg’s main River Elbe bridging point, will be HafenCity’s second urban center after Überseequarter. Spectacular high-rises, water surfaces on three sides and a large central plaza will characterize this very densely built business and residential location. Around 58 percent of the area is planned for office use and some 15 percent for restaurants, bars and special uses – a potential 13,000 jobs. This still leaves 27 percent of land allocation for residential – depending on their size, there will be around 1,000 apartments. The urban planning competition for the quarter was concluded in September 2015. In agreement with the Hamburg urban development and housing ministry, HafenCity Hamburg GmbH had launched an urban planning realization competition in which seven internationally renowned architectural firms participated. First prize went to Hosoya Schaefer Architects of Zurich whose design clearly defined the eastern entry to HafenCity and provides a robust foundation for further development.


Close to the city and excellently integrated into the public transport system, Elbbrücken neighborhood will be a densely built business location, an address for major companies as well as smaller, growing businesses. With its proximity to the Elbe embankment, to Baakenhafen and to Billhafen, as well as to verdant Entenwerder island, Elbbrücken neighborhood also has great potential as a residential area – provided solutions are found to reduce noise emissions. As is usual throughout HafenCity, ground floors will accommodate public amenities (shops, restaurants and cafés, social services, cultural institutions, etc.). At the eastern point of the quarter, right next to the Elbbrücken bridges a group of tower blocks, rising to as much as 200 m, is planned, forming a new entrance to the inner city. Up to 40 or even 50 stories per tower would be possible, without impinging on Hamburg’s classical skyline. Uses that will come into consideration are offices, hotels, retail and possibly residential. It is likely that the skyscrapers will be built in the last phase of Elbbrücken development, rounding off the urban planning process for the neighborhood.

Versmannstrasse comes first: most of the building along this arterial route will be of six to seven-story block structures for office use. The built structure to the east in front of the Freihafen bridge crossing the Elbe and the railroad tracks on the other hand will be 14-story stand-alone towers. A broad spectrum of properties for businesses and great accessibility offer ideal conditions for dynamic urban and business growth. Retailing, catering as well as office and hotel uses will dominate increasingly toward the east of the quarter. This intelligent structure is designed to create noise-protected areas that, despite heavy traffic crossing the bridges and traversing Versmannstrasse, will be attractive places to live.


In order to position residential buildings to minimize noise, the eastern end of Baakenhafen harbor basin will be partly filled in. New buildings can then be erected in a double row, with higher commercial buildings on the outside acting as a shield for the residential blocks on the inward side toward the water.

Around the head of Baakenhafen harbor and Amerigo Vespucci square, a densely built residential quarter will thus develop that will feature a variety of upmarket public amenities as ground-floor uses, such as restaurants and bars and retail on the square and promenade. There is also an option to build one waterhouse in the harbor (as in Baakenhafen next door). Visitors and residents will experience an even stronger feeling of closeness to the water here than is usual even in Hafen-City. An attractive urban space will take shape, drawing atmosphere from the connection to water, the central design element, and imparting it subtly through the various surrounding levels of height.

The result of the urban planning realization competition will be fed into the planning of functions and will serve as the basis for decisions on granting options even before the zoning plan, so that tenders can be invited and exclusive option periods agreed. There will also be a competition in 2016 for the area’s open spaces.


Since June 2013, work has been in full swing on extending the U4 subway line toward Elbbrücken, and construction of the Elbbrücken station is also now under way, with completion planned for the end of 2018. The convincing winning design by the Hamburg architects Gerkan, Marg und Partner (gmp), was presented in April 2013. The load-bearing steel exterior structure has an interior glass façade opening up visual sightlines and simultaneously integrating the context of the Elbe bridges. At the same time, Deutsche Bahn AG is building a new station for Elbbrücken. The station is supposed to open up eastern HafenCity as well as parts of Rothenburgsort, a suburb to the northwest, offering improved connections with the Hamburg public transport network. As well as the access buildings, the S-Bahn/rapid transit construction project also takes in a 70 m long and 5 m wide glazed pedestrian bridge between the stations. Although urban development of the neighborhood will get under way in 2016, planning and construction of connecting roads, quay areas and site preparation started long ago. Work has been going on to completely renew and widen the bridge in Zweibrückenstrasse since 2014; the sharp northern bend on Zweibrückenstrasse will be reduced and the road will be joined directly to Baakenwerderstrasse. The upgrading work running until summer 2016 will not only provide much broader passage along the whole of Zweibrückenstrasse and improve cycle paths and sidewalks, the road will be much better protected against flooding.