Speicherstadt and Chilehaus with Kontorhaus District
Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg/Kulturbehörde / Denkmalschutzamt
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Hamburg's Speicherstadt (warehouse district) was designed to completely new plans and using a completely new urban development layout. It was built between 1883 and 1928, replacing the previous housing, which had been largely baroque in character. This redevelopment comprised a rigorous modernisation programme, closely linked to historic changes in Germany and the development of overseas trading with all parts of the world which was in progress at the time. The 17 warehouses of the Speicherstadt, each seven or eight storeys high, constitute the world's largest remaining warehouse complex from the late 19th and early 20th century - an urban ensemble of outstanding integrity and quality.
The Hamburg Kontorhaus District is an office district built to serve the functions arising from creation of the Speicherstadt, and forming one of the most impressive German urban settings of the 1920s. It is the first dedicated office district on the continent of Europe. It is characterised by a high degree of stylistic consistency, and was executed in the 1920s, 30s and 50s with virtually no change resulting from the Second World War. Particularly good examples of the style are the Chilehaus, Messberghof and Sprinkenhof, which are among the most significant of all the architectural heritage of that period.
Up to the middle of the 19th century, commerce, administration, warehousing and residential functions had all been combined in the city centre. That changed with the creation of the Customs Union, making Hamburg a part of the German Empire. It became necessary to create a separate area for storage and handling of goods because the city as a whole no longer had international status for customs purposes - hence the creation of the free port. Dedicated facilities were needed for the new functions. The site chosen to build the new warehouses was Brookinsel ("Brook Island"), to the south of the city centre. This site had the necessary connections with the river and the waterways - the Sandtorhafen terminal had already been built here on the southern bank of the island, where there was sufficient water depth for seagoing vessels - and rapid access to the commercial offices in the city centre, where the business transactions were managed. However, drastic measures were needed to create the warehouse district here at the beginning of the 1880s. That involved clearing 1,884 buildings and relocating some 24,000 residents; it also involved moving enormous masses of earth, transforming the whole topography of the island. The Free Port had to be clearly separated from the rest of the city - this was done by widening the narrow waterways ("fleets") between the Binnenhafen and Oberhafen. Brookinsel was thus demarcated from the city centre by a wide waterway, known as the Customs Canal ("Zollkanal"), with just a few bridges providing access, for easy control of movements. The island was equipped with the necessary infrastructure, including not only quay facilities with sufficient water depth for seagoing vessels, already available on the southern side, but also a network of waterways ("fleets") each having a width of at least 20 metres to handle barge traffic, and roads and railway tracks for land transport of goods to and from the port.
After establishment of these infrastructure facilities, the Speicherstadt itself was built in brick, mainly in three construction phases between 1885 and 1914. The first and largest phase between the western tip and the Jungfern Bridge was completed in the brief period from 1885 to 1888. It was not until the 1920s that the last warehouse block W was built.
All the warehouses were located between street and "fleet", to permit loading and unloading both from the water and from the land side. Ancillary construction work included two- to three-storey customs clearance sheds and pontoons in the north, and the single-storey quayside sheds of Sandtor terminal in the south, separated by rows of trees and by railway tracks. The profile from north to south was thus made up of canal, low buildings, street, high warehouse buildings (running alongside the waterways on either side), fleet, high warehouse buildings, street, railway tracks, single-storey sheds, and quayside with sufficient water depth for seagoing vessels. This profile was determined by the way the warehouses were used, and at the same time it gave attractive proportions, which are still characteristic of the Speicherstadt today. The western tips of the island, that is Kehrwiederspitze and Sandtorhöft, were kept free of buildings, or had no more than a low-rise police station, giving an uninterrupted view of the Speicherstadt from the west.
The Speicherstadt needed to have special architectural features as a visual counterpart to the old city, and the architects had to find a way of varying the design of the individual warehouses, all of which were similar in nature and function. Their designs made use of the fact that all the warehouses needed to be fitted with lifting gear. The doors for incoming goods on the various storeys were aligned above one another above the ground floor, in forward bays projecting outward from the warehouse; this line was extended upwards beyond the eaves, concluding with a gable and fitted with a copper-covered winch bay. These repeated elements in the façade structure created a vertical emphasis which was also reflected in the window lines. They provided an opportunity for varying the roof zone, with further decorative elements such as turrets and gables with dormer windows. Visually prominent points with attractive views towards the city, such as at Brooks Bridge, Jungfern Bridge and Kornhaus Bridge, and at the junction between Brookstrasse and Pickhubenstrasse, were specially emphasised by oblique corners, façade decorations and turrets, and similar elements were used at the western tip in seaward direction, presenting an attractive cityscape to incoming ships. Special design was used to highlight certain buildings such as the State Warehouse with the Customs and Post Office House, the "Central Machine Stadium" and the administrative building for the Speicherstadt.
While the individual warehouse buildings followed the requirements of functional use, the richly ornamented brickwork was by no means exclusively a case of form following function, but was intended at the same time as a dramatic display of Hamburg's economic prosperity.
Construction of the Speicherstadt not only involved sacrificing a whole urban district, but also meant far-reaching changes in the neighbouring areas of the old city, or at least substantially accelerated such changes. Previously, the traditional Hamburg merchant's house ("Bürgerhaus") combined a whole range of functions under one roof - such as commerce, administration, storage and living accommodation. But then storage of goods was transferred to the Speicherstadt following the Customs Union in 1888; and since the mid 19th century, the residential functions were transferred increasingly to outlying urban areas and suburbs. These developments gave rise to a new type of building in the city centre in the late 19th century, that is the Hamburg "Kontorhaus" or "office building". This style of building was based on recent developments in commercial premises in Britain and the USA, and in particular the new buildings in Chicago following the Great Fire. It was monofunctional in design, purely for offices with the addition of shops on the ground floor, and at the same time it was fitted with all modern infrastructure and engineering features, such as electricity, paternoster lifts and load elevators, central heating, telephones, and a pneumatic-tube postal distribution system.
A number of office buildings of this kind had already been built in the old Hamburg city and in the new urban district (Neustadt) as early as the end of the 19th century, and now a whole zone of such buildings, the "Kontorhausviertel" (office district) was built on the northern side of the Customs Canal, in the direct vicinity of the Speicherstadt, in the 1920s and 1930s. They were designed with a completely new concept and with a new ground plan, replacing the previous buildings in the area. A modernisation and rehabilitation programme had already been produced for this residential area, known as the "Alleyway District" ("Gängeviertel") due its narrow streets, following the cholera epidemic of 1892; but implementation of the project came to a standstill after the start of the First World War in 1914, and was not resumed until the 1920s. By that time the objectives had changed, and it was to be developed as the first purely commercial district on the European continent - known in Hamburg as the "Kontorhausviertel". Building continued in the 1930s, and was completed after the Second World War.
The special identity of this Kontorhaus District, which is among Germany's most impressive cityscapes of the 1920s, is due in part to the fact that the ground plans of the buildings coincide with the outlines of the blocks, to make full use of the available land - an approach chosen deliberately in view of the purely commercial purpose of the buildings. The proportions of the buildings are designed to make use of the maximum height, adding further height by means of stepped-back upper storeys. The formal language of the major buildings is a variant of the "New Construction" style of the 1920s, characterised by their proportions and the use of decorative sculptural elements, with a more restrained version of this style used in the 1930s. The combination of the building material used, that is dark-coloured, hard-fired brick (clinker), and use of the Kontorhaus construction style, results in an overall complex that is characteristic of Hamburg, and is not found anywhere else even in related form. The Kontorhaus District includes heritage buildings of the highest calibre within a small area.
The foremost of these buildings is unquestionably the Chilehaus, built by Fritz Höger in 1922-24. It is the dominant and outstanding building of the Kontorhaus District - a masterpiece of German clinker expressionism and at the same time a symbol of the development of the inner city area of Hamburg as a commercial centre.
Fritz Höger accepted the commission for the new Kontorhaus project for Henry B. Sloman, a Hamburg merchant and banker who successfully engaged in the nitrate trade with Chile. Höger drew up his plans for the building to make full use of two irregularly shaped plots of land, separated by a narrow street (Fischertwiete) running between them, on the line of the Wandrahm Bridge which formerly connected the Speicherstadt and the Kontorhaus District; he designed the building to span the street, widening it to create an internal courtyard with the main entrances to the Kontorhaus. This massive and long-drawn-out 10-storey building is constructed on a reinforced concrete frame (internal pillars and floors). The outer walls are made of the typical dark-red to violet fired "clinker" bricks that are characteristic of brick expressionist style, and connected to the reinforced concrete core as the load bearing structure. The building as a whole is oriented from west to east, giving it a slender profile following the existing line of the street, and boldly drawn together to a point in the east, completely filling the acute angle at the end of the site. This tip is formed by a straight flank and a curved flank, coming together like the prow of a ship - a unique and spectacular effect, enhanced by the creation of a free space in front of it.
The Chilehaus is characterised by a surge of expressionist dynamism featuring a whole range of exterior views, plus views into courtyards and beyond them; it is all integrated in the historic street pattern, spanning the Fischertwiete which runs through it, and fitting into the office building environment that subsequently emerged. That was very much Fritz Höger's intention in his exterior design - the ground-floor base with its arches, and the cantilevered platforms with the four stepped-back upper storeys, are tightly structured by closely positioned clinker piers. The entrance arches tower like city gates over the Fischertwiete, underscoring the location of the Kontorhaus between city centre and port; they are decorated on the city side by ceramic-clad arcades rising up to the full height of the base of the building, decorated with ornaments and figures by Richard Kuöhl. The Chilehaus has a total of three entrance halls and staircases which, following Hamburg's Kontorhaus tradition, are designed as semi-public spaces decorated with elaborate craftsmanship, especially in their ceramic ornamentation.
Messberghof, built directly south-east of the Chilehaus in 1923-24, is the major work of the brothers Hans and Oskar Gerson. It takes a very prominent position in the cityscape seen from a distance, from the Speicherstadt and also from Willy-Brandt-Strasse, which was built after the Second World War as the major East-West through-road. Messberghof comprises the first attempt to adapt the "high-rise concept", which was much debated in the twenties, to the situation in Hamburg with its specific commercial needs and urban context. The concentrated design of main structure is architecturally remarkable; at the same time it differs from the modern classic approach in its expressionistic dynamism, with a staggered arrangement at the sides and with emphasis of the corners by supporting pillars set diagonally but merging smoothly into the line of the walls.
The architects used a brilliant device to offset the monumental impression of the large surfaces of their reinforced concrete structure, completely faced with dark clinker - they cooperated with the sculptor Ludwig Kunstmann, who not only made the decorative elements for entrance arcades, but also created eight larger-than-life sculptures from Elbe sandstone, to be placed above the ledge at the level of the first floor on the ends of the side walls and the central pillars of the main façade. The entrances to the building are hidden away at the side, drawn into the structure of the building, and are designed by the Gersons in the style of Gothic arcades, incorporating mythical chimaera-like creatures sculpted from Elbe sandstone in the stonework. Visitors pass below these "protective spirits" through narrow corridors, arriving in an entrance zone which is almost square, at the centre of the overall complex. The dominant feature that meets them there is an open and unobstructed spiral staircase rising 50 metres within a hexagonal tower, crowned by a stained-glass skylight. The structural parts of this staircase, suspended from four pillars, were cast in concrete coloured by the addition of selected aggregates (basalt), and textured with a hatching effect. The handrails are decorated with lizards, symbolising the effort involved in climbing from darkness to light. The staircase arrives at a square hall on each floor, with walls clad in polished travertine panels, leading to the entrances of the offices. All the fittings exhibit the very highest level of craftsmanship. The frames around the office entrances, the artistically shaped rods of the staircase balustrade, and the doors, are adorned with imitation gold leaf using an expressionist winding technique, with the names of the respective companies set in gilt supraportes. There could hardly be a more sublime representation of the world of commerce.
Sprinkenhof, located directly to the north-east of the Chilehaus, was built in three stages -1927-28 (central section), 1930-32 (west wing) and 1939-43 (east wing) by the architects Hans and Oskar Gerson and Fritz Höger. As Hans Gerson died in 1931 and Oskar Gerson was no longer allowed to build in Germany after 1933 "for reasons of race" and emigrated to the United States in 1939, the third stage was designed by Höger alone. The project for joint planning of this building by the architects of the two neighbouring buildings was triggered by a public tender procedure in summer 1926 for construction of a building which was to include small apartments, workshops and small shops. This was not an architectural competition to obtain artistic designs, but rather a tender procedure by speculative investors looking for the best return on their investment. Fritz Höger and the Gerson brothers joined forces in order to exert an influence on this project, which directly adjoined their new buildings. Their design provided for retail shops, workshops and offices, and also 122 apartments designed for easy subsequent conversion to offices.
Sprinkenhof is a massive complex delimited by the street line, and includes three internal courtyards. It comprises a nine-storey cube-shaped middle section and two subsidiary side wings, running partly in a curved line. The first building phase comprises the massive cubic central part with the building which spans Springeltwiete, with gateway-like structuring reminiscent of the front houses of the alleyway district that had previously occupied the site.
The building features a reinforced concrete structure with richly ornamented clinker facing brickwork, covering the originally free-standing central section in a network pattern. The pattern integrates the windows and ceramic decorations by Ludwig Kunstmann - knob-like features with gold-plated ornaments, alluding to Hamburg, the German Empire, commerce and transport. Characteristic elements in this section are the capitals of the pillars, designed to give the impression of being crushed by the load of the structure above them. The entrances to the inner courtyard cut uncompromisingly into the cube shape, without regard for window lines or any other dimensions. The central courtyard features a semi-cylindrical staircase projecting from the hard line of the block, while the staircase opposite is flat. The decorative embroidery texturing of the wall of the street façade is echoed by gold-plating on stones in the façade of the inner courtyard.
The later sections, built in a curved line, differ from the middle section in a number of details - the western courtyard features stepped-back upper storeys, while the east wing has a parallel arrangement. The details of pattern also differ - the second construction phase uses uniform rhomboid patterns on the clinker walls, while the later east wing uses ornamentation more as a three-dimensional element, relatively flat on the main core of the building but projecting significantly more towards the end. The Sprinkenhof also features some remarkable staircases.
The Mohlenhof was built to the north-west of the Chilehaus in 1928, to plans by the architects Rudolf Klophaus, August Schoch and Erich zu Putlitz. It is one of the central elements in the Kontorhaus District, both in terms of architecture and in terms of urban landscape. It faces onto Burchardplatz, dominating its western side, and incorporates the most developed stylistic stage of New Construction in Hamburg brick - with a severe cubic design of the structure and high-rise elevation of the head section, a flat roof and a rhythmic pattern in the outer walls, characterised by the horizontal line of the frameless high-rectangle windows, which are lined up in strip form. Other typical features are the reduction of decoration to the ledge which runs around the structure above the base level, the moulding on the eves and on the stepped-back storeys, and the monumental sandstone figure of Mercury, by Richard Kuöhl, at the main entrance.
Alongside these outstanding structures in the immediate vicinity of the Chilehaus, the Kontorhaus District also includes further properties which add to the atmosphere of the whole ensemble:
For example, the Karstadt Building by the architect Philip Schäfer, built in 1921-24. It is one of the oldest buildings and the most northerly complex of the Kontorhaus District; its central projecting section is a powerful conclusion to the Springeltwiete, which runs through the Sprinkenhof and between two blocks towards it. This is significant in its revival of a colossal neo-classical style developed before the First World War, and employed in Germany and internationally before and after the First World War; this is the style set by Fritz Höger in 1912 with the HAPAG Office Building in Ballindamm (1912-23). The same line is followed by the Karstadt Building, in its material (stone), its proportions (scale, series of identical elements) and design motifs (temple front in the middle section) on the main façade towards Steinstrasse. The rather more low-key brickwork of the Bugenhagenstrasse front looks more "modern" in its less decorative monumental style. The application of Kontorhaus architecture to the administrative headquarters of a company is of architectural significance. The building is one of the most prominent parts of the Kontorhaus District in its impact on the urban setting.
Haus Gülden Gerd was built as early as 1897 to plans of the architects Schaar & Hinzpeter. It was initially used as an office building, and subsequently as a department store; then it was converted to an administrative building for Karstadt in about 1922, to plans by Phillip Schäfer and a façade design by Franz Hormann & Christian Zauleck. Like the Karstadt Building, it is particularly prominent in the Kontorhaus District because of the fine craftsmanship of the stone masonry on the façade. Characteristic stylistic elements include the specific treatment of the surfaces, contrasting smooth and rough sections, and neo-classical mouldings, and applied decoration elements inspired by expressionism. Its structuring into base, main storeys and gallery-like ‘attics' is reminiscent of the traditional façade arrangement.
With these two exceptions, the overall impression of the Kontorhaus District is characterised by the uniform clinker colour of the outer skin of the reinforced concrete buildings. Apart from the buildings mentioned above, four further office buildings were constructed in this style in the 1920s and early 1930s.
The Miramar, Schopenstel 15, was built in 1921/22 by the architect Max Bach. It was the earliest building of the Kontorhaus District, and the western "pillar" of the ensemble, and was extended northwards in 1923. It features a material mix with natural stone cladding in the base zone comprising ground floor and first floor, with clinker brick in the upper floors and the stepped-back storeys, and with elaborate ceramic decoration framing the colossal portal. An interesting feature, and one which anticipates on subsequent inter-war developments, is the use of rounded corners on the main building. This progressive appearance is reinforced by the horizontal rectangular windows in the upper base zone, and by the unbroken dynamic wraparound line of the outer walls in the upper storeys, sharply cut by the vertical rectangular shapes of the windows. At the same time, there are elements of expressionism in the applications and in the portal design, and also of neoclassicism in the form of the continuous mouldings.
The Montanhof, Kattrepel 2, was built in 1924-26 to plans by the architects Hermann Distel & August Grubitz. This is a corner building fronted by a triple structure - the façade rises in three triangular bays above the continuous base zone with the entrance and with shops in the central part. This structure is topped by stepped-back storeys in varying designs, with fascinating flying buttress forms in the first of these stepped-back storeys. Expressionist architectural ideas are reflected in the crystal-like concept of the structure and some individual gothic shapes (pointed arches for the shop entrances, buttress-like supports between the bays and the stepped-back upper storeys, previously in the form of figures).
The Post Office Building, Niedernstrasse 10, was built as a telephone and post office in 1924-26 by Post Office Building Director Thieme, in the style of a Kontorhaus. The symmetrical structure of the main façade rises over a broad ledge over a ground floor which is treated as a base - it is characterised by smooth clinker brickwork with restrained ornamentation and a little use of relief, and decorated with impressive ceramic portals as an entrance, and has wide triangular windows. The central section is emphasised by closely spaced pillars with triangular pilaster strips, giving a strictly structured effect; the triple-structure principle is continued in the upper floors. The stepped-back top floor with its special profiled overhanging ceramic decoration on the pilaster strips is a particularly pleasing feature. The influence of the architecture of the Chilehaus is apparent here, but the building does have its own personality thanks to the structuring of its façade. Despite its more restrained structuring in a style somewhere between the expressionist Montanhof and the straightforward Mohlenhof, it is one of the characteristic complexes of the Kontorhaus District.
Rodewaldthaus, at the junction between Steinstrasse and Burchardstrasse, was built in 1930/31 to plans by the architect Emil Neupert. This historic, narrow plot of land was used to create a unique element in the Kontorhaus District, incorporating parts of an older building. It has clinker façades on both streets, each with their own specific design. The façade facing Steinstrasse is characterised by window strips and parapet zones with ornaments, and by boldly structured corbels and ledges, and the final mouldings on the eaves and upper storeys, emphasising the horizontal line more clearly than the façade facing Burchardstrasse. There the patterns running right up to the mouldings on the eaves give the façade strong vertical emphasis.
Haus Hubertus on the corner of Burchardstrasse / Steinstrasse, built in 1930-31 to plans by the architects Max Bach and Fritz Wischer, systematically applies the ideas of New Construction in Hamburg clinker brickwork. Typical features are the structuring of the complex in varied cubic sections, which give the impression of pushing up independently of one another, the high-rise solution for the street corner, and the rounding of the first floor. Another typical feature is the series of windows fitted in between corbel and mouldings.
The main activities in the 1930s comprised completion of the south side of Steinstrasse, where two large Kontorhaus complexes were built. It is evident from these buildings that architectural attitudes had changed by now - there was a preference for simple designs derived from a traditionalism now transposed into voluminous dimensions, with restrained structural elements, but with plenty of expression in details of ornamentation and shape, sometimes giving a diffuse impression of a ‘local touch' or of ‘Olde Hamburg'.
The Pressehaus on the streets Speersort, Curienstrasse and Kattrepel was built in 1938 to plans by the architect Rudolf Klophaus, as the office building for the ‘Hamburg Tagblatt', which was the official newspaper of the National Socialist Party (NSDAP). It is the concluding western element of the Kontorhaus District. The dimensions of the building defined by the block, and the large scale of the structure with its simple wall surfaces give continuity with the older buildings of the Kontorhaus District. In stylistic terms, it takes up the typical simplified elements of traditionalism characteristic of the Nazi period, such as smooth brickwork, structured by stonework, and hipped roof, decorated with certain formulas reflecting dignity or local colour, such as arcades and ‘popular' sculpture by Richard Kuöhl (newspaper seller, etc., and the signet of the Tagblatt, a traditional merchant sailing vessel). The stepped-back upper floors which can be seen today were added only in the course of reconstruction following wartime bomb damage.
Bartholomay-Haus is a three-wing building built in 1938-39, likewise to plans by the architect Rudolf Klophaus. It comprises a large wing with a gable roof, facing onto Steinstrasse, and two adjoining southern wings, likewise with gable roofs. The complex is connected to Altstädter Strasse by a low-rise linking tract. The facades are characterised by a high shop zone with rounded arches and straight horizontal openings, and the upper floors feature stereotype vertical rectangular windows. The decorative and structuring elements are concentrated in the shop and eaves levels. The strange motif of the tall gable façade suggests a reference to ‘Hanseatic' character.
Apart from the two Kontor buildings mentioned above, construction in the Kontorhaus District continued in a rather different context in the 1930s - the new projects in the area between Burchardstrasse /Altstädter Strasse and Steinstrasse around Mohlenhofstrasse, Altstädter Twiete and Springeltwiete were city apartment blocks with shops on the ground floor. They likewise featured brickwork façades, but compared with the purpose-built offices of the twenties they were lower-rise, and had hipped roofs; they are characterised by the more restrained traditionalism of the thirties. They were located right in the business district of the city, but now took up the original rehabilitation goal; the resulting buildings reflected both the change in economic conditions and the demonstrative intentions of the Third Reich in urban development. To highlight this approach and to install a feeling of homeliness in this big city environment, they also used elements of form similar to those of the office buildings of this period, with allusions to ‘Olde Hamburg' - for example in the folksy figures, clearly derived from the Hamburg Biedermeier style.
The apartment blocks at the corner of Burchardstrasse/ Mohlenhofstrasse, Steinstrasse were built in 1935-36 by Rudolf Klophaus, who was already well known at the time; these are brick buildings designed in a uniform style with decorations on the windows, influenced by art deco, and with gable roofs in keeping with traditionalist style. The building at the corner of Steinstrasse 21 is decorated by a large figure of a mother with children (by the sculptor Richard Kuöhl), rather in the manner of a house sign.
Altstädter Hof with its residential and office premises comprises a complete block to the south of Steinstrasse, Altstädter Str. 11, 13‑23, AltstädterTwiete 1, 3, 2, 4, Mohlenhofstrasse 1, 3, 5, 7, Springeltwiete 5, 7, 9, Steinstrasse 13, 13a, 15, 15a, 17, 17a, 19, 19a; it was built as an integrated complex by the architect Rudolf Klophaus in 1936-37. This is mainly traditionalist in character, a large multi-floor complex under a steeply pitched roof. The façades are designed in free symmetry, and structured by flat bays some of which are topped by gabled dormer windows, with groups of vertical rectangular windows and with round windows distributed around the staircases and roof bays. They are enhanced by balconies, etc. There are striking motifs in the paired rounded arches leading into the central courtyard - Springeltwiete -, and the brick pergola as a screen on the south side towards the Altstädter Strasse; it is interesting to note that this complex included an underground garage. The façade towards Altstädter Strasse is varied by differentiation of the building line and the arcade motif. The material used is brick, and light-coloured stone to frame entrances and doors and for the consoles. The large figures distributed around this block are Hamburg characters in folksy style, referring back to the past. The ‘Olde Hamburg' touch is likewise evoked by the gatehouse-like entrance on Steinstrasse, referring to the front houses in the former alleyway district with its narrow passageways into courtyards and rear houses. However, the dating plate refers to contemporary happenings, associating the completion of the Altstädter Hof with the celebrated 1936 Olympics. The sculptor is Richard Kuöhl.
Construction of the last great Kontorhaus, Burchardstrasse 19-21, was completed in 1955/56, that is after the Second World War. This complex, built to plans by the architects Alfredo Pus & Emil Richter, is in the tradition of the modern movement of the twenties, and is based on the grid-style architecture developed in the post-war period. The design is strongly characterised by the façade, and the structuring of the building as a "high-rise building" at the street corner, with a stepped-back upper storey. This gives the building a certain dynamism and elegance compared with the older Kontor buildings nearby, because of the two-coloured design of its façade, the elasticity of its Burchardstrasse wing, and its slender proportions - these features are typical of the post-war modern period. This design sets a new tone and completes the Kontorhaus District, rounding off its architectural history.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
The Speicherstadt suffered substantial damage in the Second World War, but was restored to functioning condition within a relatively short period. Apart from a few buildings in the west that were completely destroyed, most of the damaged buildings were restored, in a manner ranging from meticulous detailed reconstruction to freely interpreted addition. In many cases, reconstruction of the upper parts of the warehouses can be detected only from slight differences in the colour of the bricks. The very few replacement buildings within the Speicherstadt systematically incorporate the post-war modern style - unobtrusive, cube-shaped structures that blend into their environment due to use of brick material.
In the course of realising the ‘HafenCity' project, currently in progress to the south of the Speicherstadt, the buildings that were destroyed in the war in the western and south-western areas have been replaced by new buildings. These areas have therefore been excluded from the conservation area. The HafenCity project is also responsible for the new road bridge and foot bridge links with the Speicherstadt, helping to develop the new residential areas and to secure access to them even in flood conditions.
Despite the changes that have been made, the Speicherstadt remains the most impressive and the most historically authentic port-related architectural ensemble and one of the major landmarks in the City of Hamburg. The Speicherstadt was therefore listed in the City of Hamburg's Conservation Register in May 1991. Listed structures include the buildings and their ancillary parts, the plots of land, the associated streets and open spaces, the waterways and basins enclosed in the area, and the quays, bridges and other components and features which make up the overall identity of this district.
The Hamburg Kontorhaus District around Messberg is one of the most impressive urban landscapes of the 1920s anywhere in Germany. It is characterised by a high degree of consistency in building style, dating back to the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s with practically no change in style following the war, and featuring in particular the Chilehaus, Messberghof and Sprinkenhof.
The entire Chilehaus complex is in an excellent state of conservation, and gives an authentic picture of its construction period. The building survived the Second World War without major damage. A general refurbishment was conducted in the mid-nineties, restoring the full effect of the original building substance as it was at the time of construction, and in particular re-establishing the effect of the whole of the outer clinker brickwork and the craftsmanship of the staircase areas.
The Messberghof survived the Second World War almost intact, apart from loss of its original tile-covered hipped roof and two stepped-back upper floors above the northern wing. It was thoroughly restored in 1993-95, re-establishing the historic roof silhouette in modern architectural language, to designs by the architects Schweger & Partner. The spatial concept of the entire staircase area was restored or reinstated in keeping with its original state; the portal figures and the associated expressionist decoration of the side entrances were replaced by copies (the originals are now on display inside the building) and the original sculpture by Ludwig Kunstmann, which had suffered severe damage, was replaced by new works by Lothar Fischer.
The Sprinkenhof complex is likewise in an excellent state of conservation, conveying an authentic picture of the time of its creation. This building likewise survived the Second World War without serious damage.
The other buildings of the Kontorhaus District described above are also in a good state of conservation, reflecting the time of their construction both externally and in the internal areas with design relevance, such as entrance halls and staircases.
The Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District are listed in the Hamburg Conservation Register. All major repair and maintenance work and all activities affecting the substance of these properties have to be submitted to and approved by the Heritage Department of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.
Comparison with other similar properties
Hamburg's Speicherstadt is the largest cohesive and integral warehouse complex in the world, comprising numerous historic warehouses built in the late 19th and early 20th century, and incorporating specific functional, architectural and urban planning structures in a system of streets, waterways, railway tracks and interposed buildings.
Hamburg's Kontorhaus District is the first dedicated office district on the European continent. It comprises outstanding examples of architectural history, presenting a remarkable concentration of the possible stylistic variants of the interwar and early post-war periods. It features consistent use of brick material and Kontorhaus style, resulting in overall complex which is characteristic of Hamburg, and which has no parallel in other cities anywhere in Europe. In international comparison, too, the Kontorhaus District is a coherent and significant ensemble, a key example of this style of urban planning and architecture. It gives a clear presentation of the succession of building types induced by historical, socio-political and related urban planning developments in the second quarter of the 20th century, having a significant impact in Germany and Europe, and possibly also in North America. There is no more effective realisation of the "Kontorhaus" type of commercial building than the Chilehaus by Fritz Höger. The Chilehaus is the prime example of German brickwork expressionism, and had a lasting influence on brickwork architecture throughout Northern Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.
The Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District are listed as conservation areas under Hamburg conservation law, due to their outstanding importance. This status is by no means restricted to Hamburg - each of these complexes in itself has major historic and architectural significance in European and international comparison. Together, they constitute an ensemble that is unique in its focus and expression, giving them outstanding universal value.