With the Speicherstadt and the neighboring Kontorhausviertel, Hamburg was the last German state to receive a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015. The historic warehouse district is one of the largest contiguous ensembles of port warehouses in the world. UNESCO pays tribute to the office complexes of the Kontorhausviertel from the 1920s to 1940s around the spectacular Chilehaus because the complex exemplifies the effects of the rapid growth in international trade at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Speicherstadt and Kontorhausviertel with Chilehaus in Hamburg: facts
|Official title:||Speicherstadt and Kontorhausviertel with Chilehaus in Hamburg|
|Cultural monument:||Speicherstadt: Largest connected storage ensemble in the world, consisting of 15 large building blocks made of red brick and various ancillary buildings, which are connected by canals and 20 bridges; erected in three construction phases between 1883 and 1927 in neo-Gothic style on a group of islands in the Elbe. The Speicherstadt occupies an area of approx. 300,000 m².Kontorhausviertel: Port-related office building district built between 1920 and 1940 in the vicinity of Speicherstadt with the office buildings Meßberghof, Sprinkenhof and Mohlenhof as well as the Chilehaus built by Fritz Höger. The top of this huge clinker building is modeled on the bow of a ship.|
|Meaning:||The Speicherstadt is unique due to its closed, historic industrial architecture, the Kontorhausviertel, in addition to its outstanding modern architecture, stands for the separation of living and working in the Port of Hamburg.|
Harbor modernity behind neo-Gothic brick splendor
According to areacodesexplorer, the Speicherstadt was created as a direct consequence of Hamburg’s entry into the German customs area in 1888. Before that, the Hanseatic city was already part of the German Empire politically, but remained abroad in terms of customs law because the Hamburg merchants did not want their global business to be spoiled by German customs barriers. However, since trade with the German customs area was becoming more and more lucrative for Hamburg residents as well, a compromise was agreed: Hamburg joined the German customs area, but at the same time divided a huge area in the port for the duty-free interim storage and processing of goods from all over the world – the free port, which was demarcated from the rest of the city.
As a result, around 20,000 people had to leave their old residential areas in the port. With their forced relocation, living and working conditions in the port changed profoundly. The demolition was followed by the construction of the Speicherstadt, whose defiant brick warehouses should form the core of the free port. Since the “city within the city” was built on fine Elbe sand, thousands of 30 cm thick oak stakes had to be driven three meters deep into the ground. Each was designed with a load capacity of 20 tons.
In its uniform architectural design with the gate buildings reminiscent of medieval city entrances, the Speicherstadt is evidence of the historicizing taste of the time. Numerous details such as round corner turrets, colored bricks and glass stones that sparkle in the sunshine leave the impression of a medieval ensemble in the Hanseatic tradition.
From the beginning, however, modern technology was hidden behind the historicizing exterior. The massive walls of the storage facility ensure that the temperatures inside never rise above 20 ° C or fall to zero – ideal conditions for storing and processing high-quality goods such as coffee, tea, cocoa, tobacco and spices. Numerous winches, elevators and cranes ensured that goods were handled quickly.
An extraordinary economic upswing began with the customs connection in Hamburg, the turnover of goods tripled between 1888 and 1913 – the concept of the free port had worked.
The appearance of the office building also signals a massive change, namely the abolition of the previously common unit of apartment, office and warehouse. The first office building, the Dovenhof, inaugurated in 1886, was luxuriously equipped with steam heating, electric lighting and the first paternoster in Europe. The still young layer of commercial employees with their likewise new typewriters found generous working conditions here. Due to the concentrated warehousing in the Speicherstadt, the Hamburg merchants needed more and more office space close to the city and the port. Against this background, the Kontorhausviertel expanded.
The crowning glory of the Kontorhaus concept was the Chilehaus, inaugurated in 1924, which, with its pointed, bow-like corner and S-shaped curved front, looks like a “ship in stone”. For the clinker colossus with its 35,000 m² of usable space, an entire old Hamburg “Gängeviertel” had to give way.