The Jewel among Hamburg’s Shopping Passages

When architects Meinhard von Gerkan and Volkwin Marg set out to create a completely new shopping mall in the late 1970s, they took the inspiration for their design from the Hanseatic League, the late-medieval alliance of Northern European merchant guilds. It did not take long for the Hanseviertel shopping gallery to be referred to as the »jewel of Hamburg’s shopping passages«.
historie02_01The Hanseatic heritage of the Hamburg merchant guild is visible in numerous details of the building. The red brick floor features brass inlays depicting the coats of arms of important Hanseatic cities as well as old cargo manifests and Hamburg’s longitudinal and latitudinal position.
Initially set up as a union of interests of international merchants based in northern Germany, the Hanseatic League grew into an economically powerful alliance of cities between the 12th and 15th century, with Hamburg playing an important role in its later years. From 1629 onwards, Hamburg, Lübeck and Bremen represented the Hanseatic interests jointly. However, the heyday of the league was over in the 17th century. Even though the Hanseatic League was never officially dissolved, its last central meeting took place in Lübeck in 1669. Architects Gerkan and Marg combined such modern construction materials as glass and steel with the most typical of local construction materials: red bricks. Extending from Grosse Bleichen to Poststrasse, the site was created by merging thirty previously separate properties, some of which remained WWII ruins until the early and mid-seventies. The concept for this mall was innovative in that it brought together a wide variety of different retailers targeting an upmarket clientele.

At the same time, the new mall paid homage to Sillem’s Bazar. In architectural circles the Hanseviertel is not only considered the jewel among Hamburg shopping passages but is also credited with having sparked the subsequent boom in the construction of passage-style shopping malls in Germany. Notable examples include the »Galleria« passage built by architects Haussmann in Grosse Bleichen, a highlight of post-modern design in Hamburg.