THE LINK to #urbanana: Rhine cities and the new harbours, part 2: From the silver wave to a harbour spectacular – Architektur in Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf. Deutschland. Advertisement. The #urbanana-Rhine cities of Cologne, Dusseldorf and Duisburg have strengthened their sides facing the great river in the past few years, since the three cities began to renovate their harbours almost simultaneously. With Frank O. Gehry's Neuer Zollhof, the creators of the Medienhafen (Media Harbour) have succeeded in fashioning a spectacular entrance into a new capital of the harbour renovations in Germany. In our tour, we will point out a few especially outstanding port projects.
Among the three harbours that we have explored is the Medienhafen of the individualist. In comparison to the harmonious, hermetic Innenhafen (Inner Harbour) in Duisburg (part 1) and the straightforward practicality of the Rheinauhafen in Cologne, it is characterised by architectural variety and diversity in a space that is rather small, compared to the other two harbours. Added to that are the topography and location of the Dusseldorf Neuhafen (New Harbour), which appears airy and transparent with its permeability and its visual axes toward the inner city. One of the most dramatic scenic outlook points is Pebble’s Terrace, with a five-star hotel behind it and a raw panorama of the city and the river. Here, the idea of “The Dorf” works like the architecture of Dubai or Singapore: The outlook, architecture and ambience succeed in creating a three-way alliance. The fact that, on top of this, the harbour can display so much individual building artistry is due also to the overall strategy of this capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia. With the redesign of the old harbour on the Rhine, there were no surface improvements and no overall architectural-urban design structure. Every plot was individually dealt with and customised for its future users. The result is an architecture that in spite of – or even because of – this direction, seems compact, diverse and exceptionally thrilling in height, width and appearance.
In 1990, the city began the restructuring of the former Zollhafen (Customs Harbour), a small part of the area of the harbour as a whole and contemporaneous with the plans in Duisburg. Dusseldorf’s Rheinturm (1982), or Rhine Tower, had previously been built, and in 1988 the new building of the state parliament followed. Both are only a few minutes away from the Medienhafen, which was suddenly very present in 1999. Frank O. Gehry & Associates and Beucker Maschlanka und Partner had finished the high-contrast Neuer Zollhof, consisting of three buildings, after a three-year building period. Materiality and asymmetry characterised the three-building ensemble: stainless steel, limestone and red clinker bricks define the façades of Haus B, Haus C and Haus A. The ensemble had national and international significance for the development of the Medienhafen. What’s more, it stands as a proxy for the building culture conglomerate and its by now nearly twenty-year history. Whoever visits the area encounters exposed concrete, steel sheet siding and glass panels. There are colourful buildings, cylindrical ones and bold ones. Buildings that are modest, and architectures that show off. Many share their relationship to the water and to the harbour origins of the area in common. In the Rheinauhafen and in the Duisburg Innenhafen, too, the harbour atmosphere is palpable. In the Medienhafen, though, it feels somewhat earthier and more raw. Quay bulkheads, bollards, wrought iron railings and railway lines have acquired a patina, in contrast to the otherwise-busy atmosphere. In this respect, the harbour architecture represents the interplay of design and contradiction, of individualism and the connections to the river, to the city and to the surroundings. Over 800 businesses with a total of nearly 9,000 employees have moved into the neighbourhood and thus take advantage of the image of the Medienhafen, described by the architectural association of North Rhine-Westphalia as an “Architecture Mile.” Over 70% of the resident firms have their main headquarters here. The fact that the harbour architecture will be further developed is clear in the construction sites on Franziusstraße, where the Casa Stupenda (the Stupendous House), by Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) is being developed. What began with Gehry’s deconstructivist-freeform wave of silver, continues with David Chipperfield, Pritzker Prize winner Fumihiko Maki and Helmut Jahn, each in his own way. RPBW’s building follows suit. In our tour along Am Handelshafen and Speditionsstraße, we will point out what the master builders have accomplished, and where. The fact that the buildings that arose here are no mere hodgepodge, the neighbourhood also owes to the versatile interplay of the forms and the creative solutions, which just goes to show you: even individualists can blend in well in a group picture.