HafenCity: Europe’s Biggest Inner City Development Project


Development in European Cities

Development of European cities is mostly constrained by historical values to preserve most of its primordial urban settlement models that initiated the embryonal concept of most modern cities in the world. Given the mature development of its built-environment and economic development, especially in the western and northern part of European continent, population there is also considerably not as high as anywhere else in the world. If it is high, as in some of European mega-cities such London, Paris, Madrid, or Berlin, the natural population growth would not be as progressive as in Asia, Africa, or South America, but relatively constant instead. If there is any growth, usually it is due immigration related to economy and political factors.

Development in Europe is not so rapid and strictly under control, in contrast to fast pervasive and fast (sometimes hasty) modernized urban development in Asia that is driven by high demand of living space and its rapid economic growth. Most of European style of development is generally low-rise oriented, with low risk of investment. While the other continents mostly adopt vertical urban expansion, as in superblocks and skyscrapers, in addition to horizontal urban expansion in a form of urban sprawls.

However, due to its conventional and well-thought approach, some Continental European cities are proven to have a very sustainable and well-done built environment with reliable and well-balanced infrastructures, including transportation. The city governments also tend to focus on urban regeneration projects in the inner parts of their cities, also sometimes this focus would trigger pros and cons debates among the conventional inhabitants and city stakeholders. There are some new projects for the future European cities that accommodate city revitalization and bringing modernism to come alive on the continent, without ignoring the value of their historical settings.


HafenCity Hamburg

HafenCity in Hamburg is one of the ongoing city projects to be the biggest new inner city development in Europe, indicating that Hamburg, the third largest city in Germany, is growing in a sense of space, population, and economy. HafenCity is a completely new urban district that is located at the river Elbe, the major core of Hamburg as an old port city. It is also the biggest urban laboratory for the field of architecture, urban planning, and sustainable development concepts such implementation of wind energy and geo-thermal system. Currently, HafenCity neighborhood has become quite established as a place to live and work, due to supports from its expatriates and western-oriented city dwellers. It is an interesting project, despite its pros and cons for giving a contrast new landscape, new facade, and new skyline to the Speicherstadt (Old Port District), after for so long having a relatively slow-pace and low-rise city redevelopment following the World War II. HafenCity consists almost wholly of new buildings, since not many old ones can be retained or are worth preserving, as the site of HafenCity was largely occupied by single-story sheds (HafenCity Hamburg, n.d.). Its milieu of the new development is however still adjusting the old port structures and a few existing buildings, as well as the widespread use of red clinker bricks, trademarks of Speicherstadt. So basically it is like a major revitalization project with orientation of modernism and economy boost.


Some Current Facts about HafenCity, as of first quarter of 2015 (HafenCity Hamburg)

  • HafenCity is being developed from west to east and from north to south with 56 projects are completed and another 49 under construction or in the planning stage.
  • Deals through sale of land or exclusive options have been closed on around 1 million sqm GFA.
  • Almost 1,500 living spaces have been completed and more than 450 companies have moved into HafenCity.
  • In 2013 three more major office tenants, BP, Hanjin Shipping and Greenpeace, moved into the area, while the next incomers, Marquard & Bahls, Gebr. Heinemann and Engel & Völkers (one of the biggest and well-known real estate companies in Germany) are either building new premises in 2014 or enlarging their present ones.
  • More than 2.32 million sqm gross floor area (GFA) will be built, consisting 6,000 residential units for 12,000 residents, business premises that will offer 45,000 job opportunities, plus restaurants and bars, cultural and leisure amenities, retail facilities, parks, plazas and promenades.
  • The district is provided by two dedicated new inner city train (U-Bahn) stations, HafenCity Universität and Überseequartier (U4), so people can go directly from Hamburg city centre.

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