IBA Hamburg

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Welcome to the website of the International Building Exhibition IBA Hamburg 2006-2013!


Here you will find information of all projects, the history and themes of the IBA Hamburg as well as a listing of the publications and white paper. This page was archived after the ending of the exhibition, has a status of 2014 and will not be updated anymore.


All information on today's work of IBA Hamburg GmbH you can find on www.iba-hamburg.de

IBA Hamburg – Seven Years on the Island

One of the largest urban development projects in Europe has been carried out in response to the needs of citizens. In the middle of Hamburg, the International Building Exhibition IBA Hamburg has sought to find answers to the most pressing issues facing modern cities. Seventy projects have been implemented in Wilhelmsburg, Europe’s largest populated river island, Veddel, and “Harburg Upriver Port”, up to 2013 and beyond.

After the great storm surge of 1962 claimed the lives of hundreds of people from Wilhelmsburg, many residents left the devastated islands. In subsequent years Wilhelmsburg and Veddel became “problem areas” and a source of negative headlines. Committed Wilhelmsburg residents became proactive and in 2001 received funding from the Hamburg authorities for a Wilhelmsburg Future Conference. More than one hundred citizens worked in conjunction with the authorities on creating a vision of of the outlook for Wilhelmsburg, and in 2002 produced a White Paper that called for better schools and prospects for children and young people, high quality and family friendly new residential buildings, the relocation of the Reichsstrasse, the elimination of brownfield sites, and improved transport connections.

As a result, in 2004 the City of Hamburg outlined its “Leap across the Elbe”, and in 2005 drafted the Memorandum for the International Building Exhibition Hamburg 2013. The southern areas of the city were to be developed and used to boost the growth of the booming metropolis. This would be aided by two instruments: the international garden show hamburg 2013 (igs) and the International Building Exhibition IBA Hamburg.



Preparations for the IBA Hamburg took about three years. Three themes were established by the IBA along the way: “Reaping the benefits of globalisation”, “Using knowledge and cultural resources to add value”, and “Creating high-quality urban districts”. Between 2007 and 2010 the IBA nailed down these themes under the slogan “The Metropolis of the Future”.

In 2007 the 4th IPCC report was issued, and the key theme of Cities and Climate Change became a major item on the agenda. This was vital due to the vulnerable topography of the Elbe Islands and the fact that major cities all over the world are both the main causes of climate change and its chief potential victims.

With its second key theme, Metrozones, the IBA narrowed the existing theme outlined in the memorandum “High-quality urban districts” towards a specific concept. In close conjunction with the garden show, this theme sought to improve the potential of the choked inner city peripheries. The aim was to resolve the classic conflict between living and working areas. In Wilhelmsburg this took the form of a conflict between harbour and city development, and new methods of urban restructuring were deployed.

The key theme Cosmopolis was devised in 2007 with the aim of harnessing diversity as a strength, with new infrastructure, urban development, and architectural solutions that counteract the formation of spatial and social ghettos. The major conceptual terms were training and employment.

The themes were further crystallised in discussions by the IBA Board, appointed in 2007, and in events carried out as part of the IBA LABORATORY series. This process is described in the seven-volume IBA papers.

Public Perception


In the early years the emphasis was on encouraging people to make the mental “Leap across the Elbe” and raising awareness of the districts south of the northern branch of the Elbe as part of the overall picture of Hamburg. The IBA kicked off its campaign by targeting the northern districts, with the slogan “What can Wilhelmsburg do for Eppendorf?” The IBA’s 2007 Summer of Art and Culture drew in more than 50,000 first-time visitors to the Elbe Islands.

The IBA Convention (2007) was also aimed at gradually changing the image of the Elbe Islands. The idea was to involve stakeholders from the urban community in the IBA process, and to give the Elbe Islands and the IBA Hamburg greater cachet. Over the years, the number of “IBA Partners” rose from 46 initial investors to more than 140 private and public businesses and institutions, who networked with one another in technical working groups and quarterly partner breakfast meetings, and became ambassadors for the “Leap across the Elbe”.

In 2013, the Presentation Year, more than 400,000 people took up the IBA Hamburg’s invitation to make the leap across the Elbe and discover the Elbe Islands and the IBA’s projects. Seven years after the IBA was founded, Hamburg’s Elbe Islands are well on the way to making the transformation from a city backwater to a prime example of urban renaissance.

The flip-side of this transformation is fear about the displacement of the original residents. In 2013 gentrification is more of a perceived phenomenon than a reality. Nevertheless, development must continue to be monitored closely so that timely intervention is possible. The IBA had two fundamental maxims: “Living means staying” and “Upgrading without displacement”. Testament to these are countless projects aimed at the people who had made their home on the Elbe Islands.



From the very outset, Wilhelmsburg-based campaigners followed the IBA with interest and offered constructive criticism. The projects of the IBA were presented to over thirty local organisations at a number of meetings held during the initial phase. The IBA/igs Participation Panel, made up of 24 residents, played a key role in this process by advising on the projects. Although it had no power of decision-making, the Panel’s input was vital for the IBA and igs.

For the most part, however, immigrants were underrepresented. To counteract this, the IBA pursued dialogue with representatives from Muslim societies and organisations, who acted as an entrance into these communities. One important way of encouraging participation was used for the “Global Neighbourhood” redevelopment project. Overall, the IBA Hamburg elicited participation in more than a dozen different ways, all geared towards target groups and tailored to the individual projects.

Under the slogan “Planning, having a say, and helping to shape your neighbourhood”, the IBA and the igs frequently called upon the citizens to get involved in open dialogue. “Citizens’ chats” were an integral part of this constructive discussion process and a key feature of both organisations from the very beginning.


International building exhibitions and their institutional composition are not known quantities as far as the public, politicians, or the media are concerned. The “IBA meets IBA” process launched in 2007 – a close exchange between building exhibition organisers – served a dual objective: to allow the IBA Hamburg to frame itself within the tradition of other building exhibitions, and to set up a public discussion about features of the IBA format. Ten recommendations on future international building exhibitions underlined the importance of curatorial independence.

IBA Hamburg GmbH was founded on 1 September 2006 in order to enshrine this independence. It subsequently signed cooperation agreements with all of its key partners and stakeholders. These “IBA contracts” formed the basis for the IBA’s collaborative work with other Hamburg institutions, from the Hamburg Mitte and Harburg district administrations to the fiscal authorities. Reciprocal information, the IBA’s participation in approval and decision processes, conflict prevention, and arbitration were all regulated. Above all, this laid the foundation for a trusting and successful collaboration between the authorities and the IBA.

In 2008 the Ministry for Urban Development and Environment, which supervised the IBA, set up the “Leap across the Elbe” coordinating body . This inter-institution and -authority coordinating body made it possible to complete decision-making processes as quickly as possible; otherwise, they would have taken weeks or months. Preparatory work was carried out in groups such as the “project leaders” and the “building application conference”. There were also additional strategic and operational coordination phases involving the IBA and igs , the district authorities and the Ministries of Finance, Education, Society and Culture, such as the “Elbe Islands Education Drive” Steering Committee. If it had not been for this unique form of cooperation between individual authorities, the interdisciplinary educational policies of the IBA would not have been viable.

The International Exhibitions Building and Property Management Unit of the Ministry of Finance also played a key role, purchasing the land required and granting it to the IBA. The IBA carried out “best bid schemes” in conjunction with this unit, replacing the “auction schemes” that were formerly standard practice.

The IBA was not, however, able to overcome every political or administrative hurdle. One example was the traffic plan devised in 2011 by the Urban Development Department of the Ministry for the Economy, Transport, and Innovation. The lack of overall transport planning was detrimental to the IBA’s urban development plans due to public transport policy decisions (e.g. “cross-bracing the harbour”). In almost every major city there are intractable elements in one or more areas of administration, and these cannot be circumvented even by an IBA. The general legal framework for German building and planning law also contains many serious obstacles and is in need of urgent reform if we wish to advance the development of our inner cities.


With an initial € 100 million of funds, supplemented by a further € 90 million from 2011, the IBA provided a tight framework for investment. It sought to mobilise private and other public investment. Despite an intensive campaign to attract investors and project developers, involving numerous talks and presentations, no private partners had been found by the end of 2008. The Elbe Islands were not considered a suitable location for private housing investment. Only the municipal housing company SAGA GWG was prepared to implement a model project, renovating old buildings in the “Global Neighbourhood”.

Due to the lack of interest among investors, the IBA Hamburg then targeted private end-users, such as construction companies, resulting in the “Open House” and “New Hamburg Terraces” projects, and focused on public clients. The tone was set by infrastructure projects such as the “New Building of the State Ministry for Urban Development and Environment”, the “Gateway to the World Education Centre”, the “House of Projects”, the “Centre of Language and Exercise”, and separate construction projects such as the “IBA DOCK”, the “Energy Bunker”, and the “Pavilion in Weimarer Platz”.

The political support received by the IBA and these public investments, including the igs site within the new Island Park, finally aroused the interest of private developers.

Implementation of the Projects

By the end of 2007 the IBA comprised 24 projects. By the end of 2008 this figure had risen to 39: 11 Cosmopolis projects, 18 for Metrozones, and 10 for Cities and Climate Change. In the interim Presentation Year, 2010, there were 52 IBA projects. When the IBA finally came to an end, there were 70 projects – 23 for Cosmopolis, 33 for Metrozones, and 14 for Cities and Climate Change.

Every IBA project had to meet the IBA Excellence Criteria, which were drawn up by the IBA Board in 2007. IBA projects came about in a number of different ways: calls for ideas by the IBA, projects suggested at the 2001/2002 Future Conference, or proposals by organisations and individuals.

Quality agreements formed the legal basis for all IBA projects, monitoring their IBA Excellence and influencing the way in which they were promoted, where appropriate, along with the completion date, guarantees, and penalties. It was also agreed that local tradespeople would be involved in the tendering (Elbe Islands Bidders’ Register), and young people would be offered employment opportunities.

The first quality agreements with private investors were concluded in 2009.



The IBA Hamburg began 2013, its Presentation Year, with 70 projects. Some projects were still being constructed, while others, such as the “Renewable Wilhelmsburg Climate Protection Concept”, are to be carried out over the long term. In 2013 the IBA Hamburg comprised a total of 1,733 residential units, either built or being built, of which 516 were modernised apartments. In addition, it has 100,000 square metres of commercial space, eight educational establishments, two senior citizens’ homes, three day nurseries, four sports facilities, a commercial park, a centre for artists and creative workers, an extension of the Assmannkanal, and over 70 hectares of green space.

More than 420,000 people have visited the IBA exhibitions, tours, and events. The programme has been enjoyed by experts and interested parties from all over the world. In conjunction with the various projects and concepts, this has been the key to the success of the IBA Hamburg, which has also been embraced by the public.

The private investment that the IBA has attracted amounts to more than € 700 million. In addition, it has received a total of € 300 million of public investment. Above and beyond its € 90 million budget, it has been granted around € 30 million of resources and programme funds from the EU, the German authorities, and the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. At the start of the project no one expected just how successful the development of the Wilhelmsburg metrozone would be in unleashing the potential for urban development and, in particular, bringing about the residential construction that was so urgently required.

International building exhibitions are urban laboratories. The ultimate outcome of this IBA will only be fully revealed once everyday life resumes on Hamburg’s Elbe Islands.

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Video "IBA Hamburg Trailer 2013"
(10:22 Min)