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Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District

The Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus are two commercial quarters with offices and warehouses close to the port of Hamburg.

They date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The iconic Chilehaus is a ten-story office building. It is an exceptional example of the 1920s Modernist architecture (Brick Expressionism style).

Map

Visit April 2013

These groups of buildings in the harbour area of Hamburg are probably the most promising entry on the current German tentative list. The sites are easy to access in the south of the city, both by car and public transport.

I started my visit at the Chilehaus, a marvelous structure that lies at the heart of the Kontorhaus District. It’s a 10-storey building that is shaped to fit an irregular area between two streets. Just a touch of Chicago or New York, transferred to northern Europe.

The other early 20th century office buildings in the Kontorhaus District, such as the Sprinkenhof, are not bad either. They have really massive fronts, and are made out of brick.

Speicherstadt, the other part of this TWHS, lies about 1km away. This is the former warehouse district, “the world's largest remaining warehouse complex from the late 19th and early 20th century”. I can’t think of a similar WHS, except for Liverpool which has a very different feel and architectural style though.

Goods like cacao, tea and coffee were stored and handled here in Speicherstadt. All buildings are 7 or 8 storeys high, and the warehouses were fitted with lifting gear on the outside. This is still visible. Since the 1980s the area has lost its original use, and the warehouses were taken over by no less than 220 carpet shops (run by Iranians). This is still the most prominent use now, although the carpet trade seems to have slowed down also.

The small Speicherstadt museum has more displays than original objects, but tells the background stories on the area’s history well. A lot of the buildings in Speicherstadt were destroyed in WWII – so part of what you see nowadays are reconstructions. It’s a pleasant area to walk in, and stuffed with restaurants, bars and tourist attractions like a musical theatre.

Community Reviews


Tom Livesey - February 2017

It looks like I am the first reviewer to have visit this site since it was inscribed and I can report that I didn't spy a UNESCO logo or information board anywhere (though that doesn't mean there isn't one). I spent a night in Hamburg in January 2017 and stayed in a waterfront hotel in the inscribed area.

The warehouses, which display a definite coherence of style, stand testament to the development of large-scale international trade in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.

My overall impression was of a pleasant enough place but not a terribly exciting World Heritage Site compared with others. Of the 105 I have so far visited it is most similar to Liverpool.

Read more from Tom Livesey here.


Assif Am-David - October 2015

Both parts of the nomination, the Speicherstadt and the Kontorhausviertel, are easily covered by foot and can be visited in a short few hours. I started my tour with the two most emblematic buildings of the Kontrohausviertel: Chilehaus, which used to be an independent candidate for a WHS, and the neighbouring Sprinkerhof. In fact, the entire district is small and can easily be covered. In fact, it is difficult to spend a lot of time at the Kontorhausviertel because it still fills its original function as a business district. All buildings are occupied by offices and unfortunately you cannot get into most of the buildings. I did manage to get into the Chilehaus to discover a doorway reminiscent of the Bauhaus architecture. It greatly reminded me of the Bauhaus University in Weimar. All buildings in the district are made of the typical red bricks and many are covered with traditional marine motives. Both try to characterise the modern architecture as maintaining its link to Hamburg's past. Despite being modern and impressive I did not find the buildings very appealing.

The nearby Speicherstadt was largely destroyed in WWII so most of what we can visit now is a post-war reconstruction. You can read about it in a trail with explanatory plaques going through the complex. Only the central blocks were reconstructed apart from the oldest one which is outside the core zone and now houses the Maritime Museum. Similar to the Kontorhausviertel, the Speicherstadt preserved its original function, albeit to a lesser extent. It still serves as the largest concentration of oriental carpets in the world. It was funny to see the names though: Armenian, Persian, Turkish, but no Germans at all. Interesting architectural aspects were again the incorporation of maritime motives and the attempt to emulate aspects of the traditional Hanseatic architecture. This was done on a very abstract level, as the Speicherstadt does not stylistically resemble the old houses you can see at the Deichsstraße.

A little peculiarity was the inclusion of Christian elements such as Maria icons on the warehouses. I guess their function was purely ornamental since making the secular buildings church-like suited the historicist idealism.

In general I found the WHS interesting, although it is certainly not my favourite in Germany.


Hubert Scharnagl - November 2014

I have visited Hamburg several times and a stroll through the Speicherstadt and the Kontorhaus district was always a must. The Chilehaus is an iconic building of Brick Expressionism, an architectural style particularly prevalent in the north of Germany and in the Ruhr area. The view from the east to the sharp tip and the curved façade along the Pumpen street are amazing. Despite the size, it is an elegant building, reminiscent of a palace. The Chilehaus is still used as an office building, so best to visit on a weekday when the staircases are accessible. Stairs, floors and other interior details have been preserved in the style of the 1920s. But until now there are no guided tours. The other houses of the Kontorhaus district (Kontorhaus is an old German word for office building) are less spectacular but still worth seeing, the proposed area includes also the Sprinkenhof, Mohlenhof and Messberghof buildings.

Just a stone's throw away is the Speicherstadt (photo), older than the Chilehaus and different in style, but no less outstanding. The warehouses are also built of brick, it's fun to explore the details of the façades, the small towers and gables with winches. Originally the warehouses were built for the trading of coffee, tea and spices, today they are mainly used by carpet traders, but there are also museums and other tourist attractions. You can get an impression of the interior when visiting the Speicherstadt Museum or the Spice Museum. After dark the Speicherstadt gets a very special atmosphere, when the steel bridges and the red brick façades are beautifully illuminated and reflect in the water. A harbour cruise is a good choice, but whether the boat ride goes also through the narrow channels of the Speicherstadt depends on the tide, so it is better to ask beforehand.

The site is a candidate for inscription in 2015 and in my opinion the chances are good that Hamburg gets its first cultural WHS.


Clyde - October 2014

I visited these sites in Hamburg in October 2014. They are truly unique and in my humble opinion deserve inscription as they truly possess OUV. The best way to visit the Speicherstadt is by going on a harbour cruise. The red brick wharfs and metal winches of the Speicherstadt are HUGE and are just a pleasant stroll away from the Chilehaus. The Chilehaus is a true architectural gem and just opposite is a modern glass/metal replica building. It really is reminiscent of New York not Europe! Nearby is the Chocoversum, a chocolate house and museum worth visiting not only for the information provided!


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Site Info

Full name: The Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus

Site History

Locations

The site has 2 locations.

  • Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District

Connections

The site has 16 connections.

Architecture

  • Brick architecture "Chilehaus, Messberghof, Sprinkenhof, Mohlenhof, Montanhof, and Miramar-Haus –.... stand out for their unity of function and their Modernist brick-clad architecture." (AB)
  • Expressionist architecture Kontorhaus District
  • Modern Urban Planning "Anchored by the Modernist Chilehaus office complex, the Kontorhaus district attests to architectural and city-planning concepts that emerged in the early 20th century." (AB)

Constructions

  • Canals "Speicherstadt, the “city of warehouses,” includes....... a connecting network of canals and bridges" (AB)
  • Notable Bridges Brooksbrücke - truss arch bridge

Damaged

  • Damaged in World War II "About half of the Speicherstadt was damaged or destroyed during the Second World War. Warehouse blocks A, B, C, J, K, M, and the eastern part of block O were almost completely destroyed. No attempt was made to rebuild blocks A, B, C, and J (in their place, outside the nominated property, is the modern Hanseatic Trade Center). Only the façade of block M was saved. The damage to blocks D, E, and L was less extensive. Architect Werner Kallmorgen oversaw reconstruction of Speicherstadt in the 1950s and 1960s. Some damaged buildings were rebuilt – with varying empathy for the original designs – while others were replaced with modern buildings. The most recent construction (2003-2004) was a multi-storey car park that has the same general dimensions as block O, on whose site it stands." (AB)

Ecology

  • Saltpeter Chilehaus was built for Henry Brarens Sloman (1848-1931). He made his fortune in Chile in Saltpeter mining. On returning to Hamburg he commissioned the "Chilehaus" naming it after the source of his wealth

Geography

  • Elbe and its tributaries Elbe
  • North Sea " Speicherstadt - You can travel the narrow canals in small barges to savour the architectural details if the tide is right." (Hamburg-travel.com)

Human Activity

  • Sea Ports The Speicherstadt district is centrally located in the Port of Hamburg. (nom file)

Timeline

  • Built in the 19th Century Speicherstadt: "Originally developed between 1885 and 1927 (partly rebuilt 1949-1967)" and "The nominated portion of the adjacent Kontorhaus district is a cohesive, densely built 5.13-ha area featuring six very large office complexes begun in the 1920s" (AB)

Trivia

WHS Hotspots

World Heritage Process

  • Extended from original TWHS 20 September 1999 (Chilehaus), 1 February 2007 (extended to include Speicherstadt and the Kontorhaus district)" (AB)