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Global Neighbourhood



Since 2009 a former workers’ settlement in the southern part of the Reiherstieg district, home to people from over thirty different countries, has been undergoing modernisation, reconstruction, and expansion with new buildings. Following a wide-ranging and innovative participation process, the “Global Neighbourhood”, a project set to serve as a model for intercultural living, was completed by beginning of 2015. Almost 770 SAGA GWG homes were converted or new-built, according to plans by seven architectural firms, along with up to 46 commercial units in the future “World Commercial Park”. Since early 2013 renewably sourced heat has been supplied by the neighbouring “Energy Bunker”.

The area of distinctive Hamburg-style brick housing on Weimarer Strasse, in the south of the Reiherstieg district, was largely built in the 1930s and originally intended for workers at the nearby harbour. The district underwent many structural and social upheavals during World War II and the 1962 flood. Despite the age of the buildings and the changes in the area's population, the district has remained popular. Before redevelopment work began, it was home to 1700 people from thirty different countries. There was an inescapable need for renovation, however, due to outmoded layouts and the dilapidated state of the housing.

The upcoming redevelopment work is set to take the different needs of the multicultural neighbourhood into account, as the residents were consulted at an early stage, and have been given a central role in the whole process. In 2007, the Internationale Bauausstellung IBA (International Building Exhibition) Hamburg and SAGA GWG also carried out a special intercultural planning workshop to get people involved.

Experience had shown that immigrants were rarely reached through traditional “German” ways of offering opportunities for participation. To counter this, the planning workshop was set up right from the start as a multilingual community experience, where everyone could contribute their ideas for the redesign. The key to the success of the project was residents’ direct dialogue with "home researchers", six students from Hamburg University who between them spoke several different languages and went around knocking on doors and questioning those within first about their own understanding of the concept of “home” and afterwards about their living situation. This allowed culture-specific wishes for the redevelopment of the area to be noted, thus building trust in the participation process. The local people were also given the chance to participate in two workshops. Adults and children engaged in multilingual discussions and worked with photographs and models of new floor plans plus suggestions for open spaces. The highlight of the planning workshop was an activity weekend, bringing all the ideas together and giving the participants the chance to engage in spontaneous discussions.

The results of the intercultural planning workshop were collated to form a set of recommendations, which fed into the urban design ideas competition for the redesign of the “Global Neighbourhood”. Plenty of the wishes have now been implemented. The residents wanted a new centre for the district, public spaces to be improved, and family-friendly apartments to be constructed with several small bedrooms and better sound insulation. They also set out a number of further area priorities.

SAGA GWG had to accommodate the tenants within the district for the duration of the construction work; all tenants got the possibility to return to the district and their neighbourhood once the redevelopment was completed. To sum it up: more than 80% of the original tenants are living either in the “Global Neighbourhood” again or stayed on the Elbe Islands. In some of the houses of Weimarer Straße the percentage of residents who lived there before is even 100%. Thanks to public funding, rents are also remaining affordable, thus meeting the IBA's goal of preventing original tenants from being squeezed out.

A Short Walk through the Neighbourhood

First prize in an ideas and design competition was awarded to kfs krause feyerabend sippel Architektur + Innenarchitektur, from Lübeck, in conjunction with the landscape architects ARGE Sven Andresen + Urte Schlie Landschaftsarchitektur, also from Lübeck. Work on implementing their outstanding concept began in 2009, and has been expanded by a number of property acquisitions.  The neighbourhood begins at its northern end on Neuhöfer Strasse with a five-storey U-shaped building featuring an asymmetrical pitched roof in passive house standard and a new seven-storey building (acquired by Gerber Architekten), acting as an aesthetic counterpoint to the structures on Veringstrasse and the “Energy Bunker” nearby.

Southwards along Weimarer Strasse are buildings that have already undergone alterations (1st prize, kfs Architekten), and which meet the 2009 energy conservation regulations. The first three structures on the eastern side of the street are currently inhabited solely by former residents of the “Global Neighbourhood”. Further south still is a modernised, L-shaped building directly on Weimarer Platz (2nd prize, Knerer+Lang Architekten). Before its construction, the playground in the back courtyard was designed in an extensive workshop involving children from the district.

The area where Weimarer Strasse bends to the east was once dotted with car parks, and the district’s square was barely discernible among the ranks of trees. Following the redevelopment work (1st prize, Sven Andresen Landschaftsarchitekt) this is now a welcoming, bright, and central square with a playground and benches. A total of fifty coloured concrete slabs  were designed by Elbe islanders and laid into the ground of the new “Weimarer Platz”. The partial demolition of a building on the western side has allowed an additional through route towards the nearby Veringkanal, and paths between the individual buildings have been created, extended, and improved. In the centre of the pedestrianised square sits the pavilion (honourable mention, Kunst+Herbert Architekten), which opened in 2010 and has since been run by two organisations based in the district. It is open daily and is used primarily by local residents.

To the southwest of “Weimarer Platz” are three more new buildings (Knerer+Lang Architekten). These will be ready for their tenants by Fall 2013. The complex forms the southern end of a green inner courtyard punctuated by little gardens, with paths snaking between Weimarer Strasse and Veringstrasse. The buildings east of Veringstrasse (honourable mention, petersen pörksen partner) will be completed in beginning of 2015 and will provide a route to the nearby Veringkanal, with an open-air swimming pool and mooring places. The residential area culminates on Gert-Schwämmle-Weg. In a new, white-plastered building (Knerer+Lang Architekten) with an asymmetrical roof. This contains 24 apartments constructed to Passive House standard.

If you follow the circular trail a little to the east, you will reach the entrance to “World Commercial Park”. By mid-2013 this structure will offer versatile commercial units under a transparent roof for small and micro enterprises and immigrant entrepreneurs. This remarkable design has been implemented via an architecture competition initiated by the investor Gebäudemanagement Hamburg (GMB) (1st prize,Dalpiaz+Gianetti Architekten). The project is aimed at providing urban living and working solutions, while strengthening the local economy.

Project Milestones

  • May 2007: “Global Neighbourhood” intercultural planning workshop
  • April 2008: “Global Neighbourhood” urban planning ideas and design competition
  • June 2009: start of “Global Neighbourhood” construction work
  • April 2010: “World Commercial Park” peer review process
  • August 2010: completion of “Weimarer Platz” pavilion
  • Summer 2011: completion of construction phases IIa and IIb
  • Autumn 2012: completion of construction phases IIIa and IIIb, and start of building work on the “World Commercial Park”
  • September 2013: completion of construction phases VI and VIII
  • June 2013: completion of construction phase V
  • July 2013: completion of construction phase IV 
  • October 2013: completion of construction phase “World Commercial Park”
  • November 2013: completion of construction phase VII 
  • Beginning of 2015: completion of construction phase IX
  • Beginning of 2015: completion of construction phase X

This project is sponsored by the Framework Programme for Integrated Urban Development (Rise).

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Beginning of Construction:

Beginning of 2015

apartments in total:
820 apartments (publicly subsidized rented apartments, 1. Förderweg)

Rebuilding and extension:
402 apartments

284 apartments

67 apartments

Industry units:
46 (40 of it at the World Commercial Park)

Investment Volume:
More than 100 Mio. €


AIV Building of the year 2013

Prize award 'BDA Hamburg Architektur Preis' 2014, honourable mention



SAGA GWG - Geschäftsstelle Wilhelmsburg
Krieterstraße 18
21109 Hamburg

GMH | Gebäudemanagement
Hamburg GmbH
Maurienstraße 15
22305 Hamburg


Willy-Brandt-Allee 31c
23554 Lübeck

knerer und lang
Werner-Hartmannstraße 6
01099 Dresden

Gerber Architekten
Schaarsteinwegsbrücke 2
20459 Hamburg

petersen pörksen partner
architekten und stadtplaner bda
Pickhuben 4
20457 Hamburg

Kunst+Herbert Architekten
Henriettenweg 1
20259 Hamburg

dalpiaz+giannetti architekten
Bahrenfelder Strasse 263
22765 Hamburg



Sven Andresen
An der Hülshorst 73
23568 Lübeck

Breimann und Bruun
Borselstr. 18, Borselhof
22765 Hamburg


AIV Building of the year 2013

Prize award 'BDA Hamburg Architektur Preis' 2014, honourable mention