Hamburg's sustainability and culture district initiatives
The first case study piece in the series of entries that I am writing for the Europe in Baltimore/Creative Placemaking project led by the European Union National Institutes of Culture (EUNIC) Washington cluster is on Hamburg, Germany, and can be read here, "Hamburg, urban design, and placemaking: big vision, big projects."
Hamburg is a fascinating case study. The piece focuses on four different elements, but of course there are many more elements to the city's culture, placemaking, sustainability, and economic development initiatives.
Interestingly, Hamburg is an example of how the Metropolitan Revolutions book calls for a network of global trading cities, as it has been such for centuries. The inland port is the second largest port in Europe and has been the basis for the city's prominence in maritime trade and the foundation of a major presence in the finance, manufacturing, and media sectors.
Right: the area that became HafenCity, in the mid-1990s. Photo: © HafenCity Hamburg.
Hamburg was designated as the European Green Capital in 2011, in part for its urban revitalization efforts on the waterfront, in the incredible HafenCity, project, which is remaking a formerly industrial portion of the waterfront into a new mixed use district with housing for 12,000, offices for 40,000, parks, schools, and other cultural facilities.
Since 1901, Germany has held the Internationale Bauausstellung- International Building Exhibition (IBA). This expo is more than a trade show, it's a platform for demonstrating new construction techniques with real projects, focused on repositioning cities through large-scale redevelopment projects.
Left: HafenCity today. Image courtesy of HafenCity Hamburg, © ELBE&FLUT.
Hamburg extended its work in HafenCity to the Wilhelmsburg Island as the foundation of IBA Hamburg.
• IBA-Hamburg presentation brochure
The Expo presents this year, but work started in 2007, culminating in 60 projects, costing almost $1 Billion in total, ranging from the construction of new buildings to repositioning a landfill as an energy generation facility.
Right: Smart Material House: WaterHouses and sightseeing train. Credit: IBA Hamburg GmbH / Johannes Arlt.
I intend to write a longer piece on the IBA because it is an incredible example of best practice at a scale and vision that far transcends one-off projects like convention centers, sports event structures, or museums, and one which could be done in the U.S. (but likely never would be).
Hamburg shares a kind of advantage that I think DC potentially possesses but too rarely takes advantage of--Hamburg is a city-state, one of the states of Germany, but focused on the city, even though it has suburban sections and totals about 300 square miles. And because it is a city-state, it has much greater financial capacity than the typical city.
I argue that DC combines the function of a city, county, and state, and can be more nimble and efficient. Hamburg is a city in its sense of itself (even DC proper is torn between the urban core and the more suburban "outer city") which allows it to take on urban promotion and development projects without apology.
For the most part, DC doesn't take advantage of its status, which is unique in the U.S. as it controls the equivalent of the city, county, and state tax revenue stream.
Sure Congress and the Federal Government meddle, but financially DC is able to do so much more--when it isn't wasting money and being corrupt--compared to the average U.S. city.
I rue the lost opportunities.