Germany’s Designer City

Can Government Build Hamburg’s Next Hot Neighborhood?

Story by Nate Berg

Published on Dec 16, 2013

On the banks of the River Elbe in Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city, a brand new, mixed-use neighborhood is rising on what used to be a warehouse district. When completed in 2025, HafenCity, as the $14 billion project is known, will encompass 100 buildings and 25 million square feet, house 12,000 residents, and boast a number of starchitect-designed gems such as Herzog and de Meuron’s Elbphilharmonie concert hall. But it will take much more than that to turn HafenCity into a living, breathing urban space. Some find the glossy atmosphere too sterilized, especially when compared to the rest of Hamburg’s quaint 19th-century city center, and others fear that the neighborhood is meant solely for the rich despite affordable housing requirements. Writer Nate Berg heads to Germany to see if government really can engineer, from scratch, an authentic-feeling space where people at all ends of the spectrum can live and interact.

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