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Elbe Islands Dyke Park





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Elbe Islands Dyke Park


Dykes and flood protection walls up to 9.35 metres in height around the Elbe Islands in Hamburg provide protection from high tides. These structures are part of the Elbe Islands’ cultural landscape; without them the Elbe Islands as we know them today would not exist. This unusual fact necessitates the development of future-oriented strategies for flood protection. The Deichpark Elbinsel project [Elbe Island Dyke Park] combines the need for protection with new options to experience the island landscape.

The IBA Hamburg is working together with a project advisory board made up of the Landesbetrieb für Strassen, Brücken und Gewässer [LSBG – Hamburg State Office for Roads, Bridges and Open Waters]; the State Ministry for Urban Development and the Environment (BSU); the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA); Klimzug Nord; Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) and the Wilhelmsburg Dykes Authority on the project.

Flood protection systems must meet the highest technical standards and safety requirements in order to fulfil their protective function. They are special sites at the waterside, and visitors want to walk on and cross over them in order to maintain contact with the water. Parallel to this, these structures must, however, also be protected from the destructive consequences of such access. The “Deichpark Elbinsel” moves within precisely this area of conflict. In this context the term “dyke” represents the function of safeguarding and protection, which is the Deichpark’s task. The term “Park” refers to the aesthetic function and enhanced quality of life; the tangible proximity and the relaxation and leisure usage purposes assumed by the Deichpark. The “Deichpark Elbinsel” project presents the task of flood protection in the form of technical structures; offers a communication platform on the topic; supports the aesthetics and tangible proximity of the protective structures; creates new relaxation and leisure facilities and alludes to the positive challenge of the necessary climate adjustment.

The Deichpark exists already! It was only with the embanking of the islands that it became possible for them to be permanently inhabited at all. Over the centuries the embanked area was increased in size time and again. In 1814 the Wilhelmsburg Main Dyke transformed several individual embanked islands into one large island. Not only the position and length of the dykes have changed over time, but also their height. While the dykes were only some 3 metres high in 1693, today they range from 7.2 to 9.35 metres in height. The continuous raising of the dykes has meant that local residents have gradually lost their connection with the water – with it they have also lost their awareness not only of the danger but also of the quality of life emanating from water. This lack of connection on the part of wide sections of the population can impair the dykes’ protective function due to incorrect or uninformed behaviour.

The Elbe Islands’ current dyke landscape will continue to change. The rising level of the oceans as well as the increased danger of storm tides makes this imperative. The alignment, height and design of the structures must be called into question and reconsidered. Parallel to this, the population’s sense of identification with their Deichpark must be increased. This may require new approaches and strategies concerning the handling of adjustments to climate change.

The objective of the Deichpark project is to initiate a long term, cross-government authority process of water-related urban development. The willingness of the players concerned to engage with a structure seemingly completely determined by laws, regulations and special rules and, above all, to discover the room for manoeuvre and potential behind the rules offers the opportunity to prepare the flood protection defences for a new future in an era of climate change. In this context, the IBA can play the role of a platform and experimental laboratory, within which concrete flood protection ideas for all areas of Hamburg threatened by flooding can be developed and tested.

Deichpark Elbinsel feasibility study                                                                  
In 2010 consultants osp urbanelandschaften were commissioned to compile a feasibility study for the Deichpark Elbinsel project. The study consists primarily of two sections: “Understanding the Deichpark” and “Designing the Deichpark”.

The first section explains the Deichpark. International references to other coastal cities; city-wide correlations in Hamburg and the technical designs and dimensions of the dykes on the Elbe Islands are discussed at three levels from L – “Hamburg as a coastal city” through M – “Hamburg dyke landscapes” to S – “Hamburg dykes”. In the second section, “Designing the Deichpark”, examples showing how the Deichpark can be further developed are presented within the context of three different options S – “Ideas for existing systems”; M – “Concept studies for possible raising of the dykes” and L – “Alternative flood water protection strategies for Hamburg”. 

The study identifies various options for designing flood water protection structures with differing dimensions and planning horizons– from temporary installations on the existing structures through to completely new protection strategies of the future. It places current and future strategies in relation to one another and develops concrete project ideas for implementation to be completed by the IBA presentation year in 2013 and which can function as prototypes for the various strategies.

The Deichpark exhibition

The Deichpark Exhibition presents the initial findings of the study. Visitors to the exhibition are able to sit on a 1:10 scale model dyke looking at a model flood protection wall to view the contents of the study “Understanding the Deichpark” and “Designing the Deichpark”. The interactive area invites visitors to interpret the Deichpark with their own “flood poetry word creations”. Postcards saying “Greetings from the Deichpark” are available for visitors to take home and send to others. The postcard motifs show typical flood protection sites on the Elbe Islands and ask questions from the Deichpark visitor’s perspective; for example “Why are there no plants and trees growing on the dyke?” The answers provided by the Landesbetrieb Strassen, Brücken und Gewässer [LSBG – Hamburg Office for Roads, Bridges and Open Waters], which is responsible for flood protection, are included on the reverse side of the postcards. The mobile exhibition was shown at various locations in 2011.

HafenCity IBA LABOR Urban Coast Hamburg

On 4, 5 and 6 May 2011 the HafenCity IBA LABOR “Urban Coast Hamburg – The challenge of flood protection and urban development” took place.

The HafenCity and IBA Hamburg project areas face the challenge of developing future-oriented strategies for flood protection; fitting flood protection structures into established cultural landscapes and making exemplary contributions to climate consequence management. The LABOR “Urban Coast Hamburg” workshop explored in detail large cities’ innovative concepts for flood protection and offered the public and planners the space to develop ground-breaking project concepts for Hamburg’s urban coast. The results of the LABOR workshop were presented at the IBA DOCK on 20 June 2011 and, following this, were shown at various locations, for example the HafenCity information centre.

Water atlas

The WATER ATLAS represents a medium allowing a new view on the complex water-related interrelationships of the Elbe Islands. The pictorial interpretation of these water-land topologies illustrates the interaction of human influences, topography and water in all its different facets: Elbe water, harbour water, canal water, groundwater, waste water or flood water.

Based on this fascinating starting image “WasserLand” and the key questions for the future, the space-transforming and space-shaping dimensions of the water-land dynamics of the Elbe Islands are applied, qualified and further developed in 3 x 3 scenarios. The WATER ATLAS is thus a spatial-dynamic tool for the designing of urban waterscapes.


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The entire Elbe Islands