Architecture – In the aftermath of 1962’s deadly storm surge floods, Hamburg developed a barrier on the banks of the Elbe at Niederhafen to protect the city to a height of 7.20m above sea level. Zaha Hadid Architects has completed the Niederhafen River Promenade, a topographical intervention hugging a 625 meter stretch in the German city.
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The riverwalk is part of the modernisation and reinforcement of the city’s flood protection system and was designed as “a sensitive act with a social wound,” explain at Zaha Hadid Architects. “The new flood protection barrier re-connects Hamburg’s river promenade – a major attraction for tourists – with the surrounding urban fabric of the city”.
The linear structure is 8.60m above sea level in its eastern section and 8.90m above sea level in its western section to protect the city from maximum winter storm surges and extreme high tides. A minimum width of 10m ensures this popular riverside promenade offers generous public spaces for pedestrians, joggers, street performers, food stalls and cafes.
Wide staircases resembling small amphitheatres are carved within the flood protection barrier at points where streets from the adjacent neighbourhoods meet the structure; giving passers-by at street level views of the people strolling along the promenade at the top of the barrier as well as views of the masts and superstructures of ships in the Elbe.
These staircases are orientated towards their intersecting city streets. New pedestrian crossings connect each street with the river promenade. Alternating with these city-facing stairs, similar amphitheatres facing the river are also carved within the structure; generating an oscillating sequence in the river promenade as it repeatedly widens and narrows.
Pedestrian areas of the promenade are clad in a dark, anthracite-coloured granite that contrasts with the light grey granite of the staircases. Dedicated cycle lanes at street level run the length of the flood protection barrier. Wide ramps connect the river promenade with street level and provide accessibility for all. A third central ramp enables service vehicles to access the promenade and Überseebrücke.
The river promenade is divided into two sections with different spatial qualities. The zone to the west is at a larger scale, offering wide views downstream of all shipping activity on the river. To the east, the port’s marina creates a more intimate atmosphere with a long ramp alongside the amphitheatre leading visitors down to the water’s edge.
A three-storey restaurant and two food kiosks are integrated within the flood protection structure. The top floor of the restaurant cantilevers over its adjacent staircase and gives diners panoramic views of the Elbe.
All photos by @ Piet Niemann – Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.
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