Brooksbrücke mit Hammonia und Germania (um 1900)
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Short portrait Kontorhaus District

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UNESCO World Heritage Kontorhaus District Hamburg

Address: Burchardplatz 3

The Kontorhaus district, located between Messberg and Steinstrasse, is one of the most impressive city districts built in Germany in the 1920s. Occasioned by the devastating cholera epidemic of 1892, from 1912 onwards the dilapidated and constricted inner-city areas of historic housing (known as the “Gängeviertel”) were demolished to make way for the first purely commercial office district on the European continent. During World War II this area of Hamburg survived largely unscathed and today consists mainly of buildings from the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s. With its office blocks and clinker brick architecture the district has become one of the city’s major landmarks. The central hub of this urban ensemble designed by Fritz Schumacher is Burchardplatz square, flanked on each side respectively by the Chilehaus, the Messberghof, the Mohlenhof and the Sprinkenhof complexes. These buildings are some of the most outstanding architectural edifices of their time: as works of, in some cases, internationally renowned architects of the 1920s they possess high artistic value.

Chilehaus - Spitze Das Chilehaus in Hamburg 

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Altstädter Strasse 2

Kontorhausviertel Sprinkenhof Sprinkenhof 2009

The largest building within the Kontorhaus district was constructed in three phases between 1927 and 1943. The architects were Fritz Höger and the brothers Hans and Oskar Gerson. Hans Gerson died in 1931 during the second construction phase (1930–1932); the final construction phase was headed by Fritz Höger, who had joined the Nazi Party in 1933. Oskar Gerson was persecuted as a Jew and driven into exile in 1939. The building’s skeleton framework encloses three courtyards and is elaborately ornamented with decorative bonds of clinker brickwork, gilding and glazed terracotta forms designed by Ludwig Kunstmann. The façade opposite the Chilehaus (first construction phase) is covered with lozenges and markedly protruding relief medallions showing Hamburg-based motifs such as seagulls or Hamburg’s coat of arms. With their depiction of cogwheels, sailing ships and so on, the reliefs make reference to trades and businesses with branch offices in the Sprinkenhof building.

Kontorhausviertel Meßberghof Meßberghof 2012
Messberg 1

Named after the prominent ship owner Albert Ballin, the Ballinhaus was one of the first buildings in the Kontorhaus District, built at the same time as the Chilehaus (1922–1924) and based on plans by the architects Hans and Oskar Gerson. In 1938 it was renamed Messberghof (based on its location) following a directive by the Reich Governor Karl Kaufmann that all streets and buildings called after Jews must be given new names. The unobtrusively decorated ten-storey building stands on the city side of the Customs Canal (demarcating the harbour customs zone) on a direct visual axis with the Speicherstadt; its consciously flat façades are in stark contrast to the Chilehaus. The edifice was originally adorned with sculptures by Ludwig Kunstmann, but these were replaced in 1997 by newly designed bronze sculptures by Lothar Fischer. On the inside the building still contains the original entrance hall with its impressive round stairwell. The floors are made of polished light sandstone plates and the walls are faced with travertine or coloured tiles.

Kontorhausviertel Mohlenhof Mohlenhof, Luftbild nach dem 2. Weltkrieg
Burchardplatz 3

The Mohlenhof was built between 1923 and 1928 based on designs by Rudolf Klophaus, August Schoch and Erich zu Putlitz. The building’s concrete skeleton framework has smooth clinker brick façades with simple incised windows. With its unostentatious, clearly legible architectural forms the office building reflects architectural tastes in the late 1920s, forming a transition from the decorated Expressionism of buildings such as the Chilehaus towards the later modernism of “Neues Bauen”. The main entrance leading onto Burchardplatz is dominated by a larger-than-life sculpture by Richard Kuöhl, also responsible for the sculptural decoration adorning the Chilehaus. The figure represents Mercury who is shouldering a cogwheel and holding in his hand a depiction of Hammonia, a female sculpture personifying Hamburg. Mercury is flanked on either side by reliefs symbolising the five continents.

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Bernd Paulowitz

Welterbekoordinator / World Heritage Coordinator

Behörde für Kultur und Medien
Große Bleichen 30
20354 Hamburg
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