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Willy Brandt Strasse

The scheme was designed to be buildable in either of two options, as a single-function office building without apartments, or as a multifunctional building including 5 floors of apartments overlooking the canal. In either case, the waterfront building follows the line of the quay wall. Where the quay wall changes angle the façade is expressed as an open frame, overlooking the canal, like a waterside warehouse. This difference breaks up the scale of the building along the waterfront.

Willy-Brandt-Strasse 69
Competition for Quest Invest Hamburg
53°32'49.4"N 9°59'21.4"E
  • Die ganze Stadt. Hamburger Wettbewerbe und Verfahren 2027-2023
    Hamburg, Germany, 22 June - 14 July

The site is an important intersection in the urban pattern. Our approach is to make a building that resolves the geometrical complexity of the existing situation and integrates with the urban fabric.

The building pulls together the lines of the site to make a complex whole from the different aspects of the existing context. A distinctive form replaces the currently disaggregated situation with an urban composition of three parts. The lower eastern block continues the street line of Willy-Brandt-Strasse. The higher corner block is set out in parallel with the Hopfenmarkt and follows the line of the Holzbruecke.

Our design reinforces the prominence of the corner. It relates to the river. The character of the building relates to the material presence of the brick of the historic Kontorhouses along Deichstrasse and the stone of the Nikolai church tower on Hopfenmark.

The plan reasserts the original urban alignment and primacy of the market square.

The street front parapet along Willy Brandt Strasse has been set back to relate to the lower scale of the adjoining building to the east of the site.The corners of the building are chamfered to give civic presence to the three main entry points.

The roofline is likewise chamfered to emphasise the Hopfenmarkt /Holbruecke corner, identifying the main entry point to the office building. A special loft space, perhaps a board room, with access to a pocket roof terrace, has been designed under the pitched roof at this corner.

Stone benches, recessed thresholds, stepped brickwork and recessed window planes add to the visual refinement of the elevations. Brick details have been further developed, with slot-like openings to improve daylight to the corner spaces. Localised areas of perforated brick add visual detail.

The building is designed to activate the street-life with cafes, cabaret / jazz-club, etc. Café life is visible through the street-facing shopfronts. The café opens out onto a waterside covered loggia. Upper levels are planned to provide flexible workspace on all floors, with a staff café and staff roof-terrace at 6th floor level. Natural daylight is provided to working spaces.

Materials are chosen to relate to the distinctive characteristics of Hamburg’s urban architecture. The elevations are clad in red brick and brown stone, a contemporary material expression developed from an appreciation of the established tradition. The pitched roofing material is weathered copper, a typical roofing material in downtown Hamburg. Flat roofs are landscaped and accessible by office workers or, in the second (residential) option, to be shared by residents. The brick, stone, timber and copper materials are also selected for their long-term sustainability, to weather naturally with minimal maintenance and to improve with age.

The facades are carefully composed, each one proportioned to present palace-like elevations to the street. The window sizes diminish as the building rises. The reduction from stone base to brick parapet measures out the rhythm of the façade.

The building has a geological presence, a rock-like sculptural form, strong enough to hold its ground at this crucial street corner in the urban morphology.

In the apartment option, the waterside elevation has 5 floors of residential over a ground floor café. 15 apartments of 50 to 70sqm open onto individual south-facing winter gardens, with shared access to a residents’ roof-garden at 6th floor level. This option provides independent entry, separate from the office entrance, with a residents’ hall and lobby accessed along Willy-Brandt-Strasse.

The residential element could add a desirable combination of multi-functionality and urban complexity to the project. However, if the residential proposal was not considered to be commercially feasible, the scheme was also planned for more efficient office functionality. We have tested a variety of scenarios for office layouts to demonstrate their flexibility for alternative forms of office organisation. The floorplans are easy to sub-divide, either as open plan or more cellular office chambers.


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