AIV Structure of the Year 2019

Niederhafen flood protection structure receives award

What an honour: the AIV (Architects’ and Engineers’ Association) is going to commend the Niederhafen flood protection barrier as the Structure of the Year 2019! However, the planned distinction has had to be postponed to next year.

This is what the judging panel said about the project:

Hamburg has given itself something special: an extremely attractive promenade, 625 m in length, at the port, together with a parking facility and commercial space, and most importantly, a flood protection wall that is second to none.

This structure is a masterpiece of architecture and civil engineering.

The conditions and constraints to be considered, such as innumerable transverse pipes, culverts, bunkers, the Baumwall river barrier, the Alster River, the pile foundation, etc. for this structure built within the critical peripheral zone of the Elbe River, were highly complex. All of this is presented in the guise of a spacious, light and airy, spirited architectural structure with sensational views over the whole of the port.

Zaha Hadid's design is a barrier in disguise. The flowing indentations of the stairways completely and naturally connect the street side at the Baumwall with the wide promenade and the protective wall on the waterside with the pontoons. The interplay of the stairways, the inclined surfaces and levels look like public galleries with a view of the whole port. The design language inspired by nature, which is consistently echoed in the restaurant building at the Baumwall has created a special place, which is in keeping with the scale of the urban environment and which enhances the pleasant ambience.

The functional, finely designed details allow the overall shape of the structure to dominate. The engineers have excelled themselves in transcribing these individually designed components into a coherent design language.

And herein lies something special and to the credit of the builder, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, which, in the age of the over-valued right angle has made possible something new, yet very old in the service of function: the free form.

A structure of 2019, such as is seen far too rarely.

© Piet Niemann

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