Ever ambitious, Hamburg is shoring up its economic clout with a €5bn redevelopment of derelict docklands that will extend the centre by forty percent south and east of Speicherstadt. By its completion in 2025, the area is expected to provide sufficient office space for 40,000 people and 5500 apartments. Notwithstanding the fact that HafenCity makes the former building site at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, seem like minor roadworks – its 1.55-square-kilometre area is fifteen times bigger – Europe’s largest construction site is rapidly resolving into showpiece steel-and-glass offices and modernist apartments that are cantilevered over former quays – a must-see for any fan of modern architecture that presently looks its best from Marco-Polo-Terrassen. A fleet of traditional ships is moored incongruously in the middle dock.
The figurehead building over the Elbe, at the symbolic convergence of river, city and harbour, will be the Elbphilharmonie concert hall at the tip of Am Kaiserkai. A bold design by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron of London’s Tate Modern fame, it places a futuristic tower of glass on the shell of a brick industrial warehouse. When open in 2013, it should be worth a visit for the views from its public plaza 37m above the river alone. Former boilerhouse Kesselhaus at Am Sandtorkai 30 provides information on the HafenCity project, plus occasional tours of the development.