The connection between Hamburg as a Welthafen and the world
Snøhetta submitted a design proposal for the Elbtower – a mixed-use skyscraper composed of two towers in the city of Hamburg, Germany. Situated in the Elbbrücken quarter, at the intersection between Freihafenbrücke and Elbbrücke, the building provides accessibility to the city, the harbor side, as well as excellent views and sun conditions while connecting the sea and the inland waterway.
The building further marks a transition between the deep salt waters and the shallower freshwater of the Elbe, a transition that inspires the overall design concept of the building. As salt- and freshwater are composed of different densities on a molecular level, the architects chose to play on a distinction between sugar and salt, each representing a different state of tension when undergoing osmosis. This reference translates into a complex building design informing both the inner and outer layers of the building, as well as the building’s mission and vision for the future of Hamburg.
The design proposal was shortlisted and was among the top three candidates in the architecture competition.
Salt – a crystalline aesthetic
The outer layer of the building represents the "salt", reflecting the sky and sea with its marine, crystalline materiality. The building’s silhouette inscribes itself brightly and generously into its local context, adding a new aesthetic layer to the identity of the city of Hamburg.
The facades facing out to the city are composed of two skins that help provide good living qualities as well as minimizing the effect of noise and wind. The inner skin will be made out of glass and white anodized aluminum panels. The glass itself will be primarily clear but with some frosted or fritted areas.
The external skin will be full height prefabricated glass panels alternating between flat, convex and concave skewed pyramids. There will be a variation of finishes, ranging from clear glass to semi-transparent and opaque units – all in shades of white. The overall effect will be a crystalline surface that reacts to the quality and intensity of daylight.
Sugar – a generous space
The building’s inner design and public space is shaped by the concept of “sugar”, referencing the building’s generosity and openness to the community of Hamburg and the individual citizen. This space will be an oasis protected from noise, wind and pollution, with a high degree of vegetation with lawns and water features providing a variety of quality exterior spaces.
Sustainability through passive and active measures
Being committed to designing structures that maximize on-site energy production, the building will be CO2 negative, while also produce energy.
To achieve this, the building is strategically designed to reduce the amount of shadow casted from the largest tower of the skyscraper over the rest of the building, and to maximize the number of facades with integrated photovoltaic ventilation.
In addition, and to maximize the solar exposure and to reducing noise, a wind power plant is designed at the highest point of the tower. With its three integrated turbines, the wind power plant is oriented to take advantage of the prevailing wind from the West Southwest.
The building itself will contain office spaces, apartments and public functions such as a hotel, spa and swimming areas, a performance hall for a small music academy with associated teaching spaces, as well as cafés and restaurants at plaza level. There will also be a large winter garden restaurant space and a viewing point accessible for the public at the top of the building commanding stunning views along Norderelbe, over Elbpark Entenwerder.
As the site is surrounded by traffic elements on all sides, a protected public space with limited vehicular access is created.