Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, September 06, 2013

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.

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At 2:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hamburg is awesome- I was there to see Korperwelten back in 2005 - it has great art museums and the port area has a righteous model railroad museum that is the greatest in the world- bar none.

At 2:29 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Thanks, best explantion and pictures of the hafencity that i've seen.

Would be interesting to compare to the wharf in DC? also GGW had a post on a similar project in Vancounver.

At 4:49 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

HafenCity is so much bigger--12,000 residents, 40,000 office workers--than The Wharf (and note I've done some bike related consulting on that project).

However, The Wharf project is still broadly focused in a manner comparable to HafenCity. It doesn't have the Philharmonic Hall, but it will have a 6000 seat concert facility run by IMP. You'll still have the seafood market. It won't have an elementary school (and doesn't need one), but the "Graduate School" formerly an extension program run by USDA, now independent, will be based there, etc. It may have streetcar service on-site in addition to the outside street, it will have a park, access to the water, etc.

I think they are doing a very interesting project, it's just the scales are not comparable.

I'll go back and read the Vancouver entry.


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