Elbtreppen: Zaha Hadid’s New Elbe Promenade in Hamburg


Elbtreppen is a recently accomplished riverbank project by Zaha Hadid Architects that spans along the Niederhafen Port at River Elbe, the river that divides Hamburg into roughly two equal regions, located between Landungsbrücken and Speicherstadt (Baumwall), two of the oldest urban spots and tourist magnets of this port city.



“The Niederhafen was once a significant commercial port in Hamburg from the 17th to the 20th century. The name Niederhafen (“low harbour“) arose from the position of this port area beneath the timber raft barrier (“Niederbaum“ or low raft) between Baumwall and Kehrwiederspitze, which served to safeguard the entrance to the port.” (Der Landesbetrieb Straßen, Brücken und Gewässer, Hamburg).



As the existing promenade’s structure at  was already outdated and not giving an aesthetic value to the city, the riverbank is reshaped to form 750-meter long promenade with large sweeping steps where people can sit and hang around enjoying the magnificent wide view of River Elbe.



With minimum width of 10 meters, Elbtreppen also functions as a flood barrier. The promenade lies higher than the existing promenade functions as a dike to protect the city behind it, improving flood protection and at the same time quality of experience beside the water view. (River Space Design)


Just newly done in the first quarter of 2015, this river space design project has indeed proved that flood defense construction can be combined nicely with attractive urban design to form a multifunctional urban element that is able to provide higher resilience of the built environment against water-related climate change effects, as well as giving enjoyable waterscape to the inhabitants.


Zaha Hadid describes “The new promenade links key areas of Hamburg, incorporating ‘purposeful’ erosion to create a meandering river promenade with open vistas – compressed and expanded at key moments, punctuated by cut-out access cones, amphitheaters and three contrived ‘rock formations’ on which restaurants, cafes and kiosks are placed.”


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