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Wilhelmsburg waterborne

Harbour launch connections and expansion of the canoeing route

Kanu - Barkassenanbindung und Ausbau der Kanustrecke, Bild: IBA Hamburg / Oliver Heissner IBA Hamburg / Martin Kunze IBA Hamburg / Martin Kunze IBA Hamburg / Martin Kunze IBA Hamburg / Martin Kunze IBA Hamburg / Martin Kunze


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/fileadmin/Mediathek/M10_wilhelmsburgmitte/M11_bainderba/baidba.jpg Die IBA zeigt die Zukunft des Bauens

The Building Exhibition within the Building Exhibition

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Harbour launch connections and expansion of the canoeing route


Taming the surrounding waters has always been a vital part of life on the Elbe islands. This important role is not restricted to dykes; for centuries canals, drainage channels, and areas of brackish water have also helped to drain the land. Without them the groundwater would be so high here that the area would be unsuitable for habitation. The IBA Hamburg and the igs 2013 are making these important waterways on the Elbe islands appealing for watersports fans, amateur sailors, and harbour launches.

Connected Spaces

Wilhelmsburg was originally the meeting point of the islands created by the splitting of the Elbe. Dyke systems, raised land, and drainage have made it the largest river island in Europe today. However, the groundwater level is still sufficiently high that canals, areas of brackish water, and “Wettern” (namely, the feeder and drainage ditches that were mostly constructed from former branches of the Elbe), have had to drain the area for centuries. Alongside this practical function, this network of artificially laid drainage ditches and channels also allows species-rich vegetation to thrive along its banks, providing food and habitat for countless water-based plants and animals. This makes Wilhelmsburg one of the most diverse areas of Hamburg in terms of wildlife; it is still home to the lapwing and rare water plants such as the Schierling’s water-dropwort, species which are classed as endangered.

From Rathaus to Rathaus along the Waterways

Some of the countless canals have been repaired and extended in order to allow small ships and boats to travel as far as Wilhelmsburg Rathaus (Town Hall), and enable harbour launches to set off from the Jungfernstieg in Wilhelmsburg Central. The Ernst August Canal begins at the transition between the Reiherstieg and the Spreehafen, and continues on to an old branch of the Elbe, the Wilhelmsburg Dove Elbe. Halfway along, the Assmann Canal branches off it and continues via the Rathauswettern to the old Wilhelmsburg Town Hall and the community centre, where the waterway ends in a small lake. Together with the Agency for Roads, Bridges, and Waters, the IBA and the igs have widened the Rathauswettern waterways and made them navigable. The lake outside the community centre has been enlarged and the Ursula-Falke-Terrassen launch jetty has been built, so that launch and canoe tours “from Rathaus to Rathaus” are now possible from the Jungfernstieg to Wilhelmsburg. The canals have retained their original function: the waterways continue to regulate the water table and take in rainwater.

A New Canoe Circuit

Wilhelmsburg’s waterways have also been integrated into its new system of parks, and will be able to be used by all from autumn 2013, towards the end of the international garden show 2013. A circular canoe route encompassing the whole island has been created in collaboration with watersports organisations, incorporating landing stages, access roads for cars, and overland transport routes for boats.

Tourists who wish to explore the island by water can linger at any of the countless mooring points and resting places along the route. The circuit goes past the old Wilhelmsburg waterworks, which has been converted into a restaurant, and a plethora of IBA projects such as the BIQ, a building that uses algae within its façade to generate energy. The highlight of the circular route is undoubtedly the lake within the Island Park that forms the site for the WaterHouses, which provide a striking demonstration of new possibilities for living on the water and incorporating it into housing design.

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Beginning of construction: September 2009
Completion: November 2012
Project manager: District of Central Hamburg 


agence ter landscape architects, Karlsruhe 

Infrastructure planner: 
Landesbetrieb Strassen, Brücken und Gewässer
(LSBG – Hamburg State Office for Roads, Bridges and Open Waters);
Planning Group Knabe Beratende Ingenieure GmbH, Hamburg;
OBERMEYER Planen + Beraten GmbH, Hamburg


Landesbetrieb Strassen, Brücken und Gewässer
(LSBG- Hamburg State Office for Roads, Bridges and Open Waters) Hamburg