Introduction to Hamburg

Harbor tour and a walk through St. Pauli

“Welcome to Hell.” This is what we read on signs and graffiti as we exited the Hamburg train station. As we made our way to the hotel, we saw similar signs that all expressed an anti G20 sentiment. In the days leading up to our arrival, thousands were protesting capitalism, climate polices and globalization, among other issues, but some of the protests became violent. Rioters took to the streets smashing windows, looting stores, and starting fires, all of which left the streets littered with a tremendous amount of glass. The initial shock of the past events were eased as we saw citizen after citizen walking along the streets with their children and friends to clean up the glass off of the streets. It was a beautiful to me to see such citizen involvement and participation from the people of Hamburg in order to heal the wounds that were inflicted upon their city.

Our tour guide, Ralph, explaining to our group how the public are involved in the design of developments in Hamburg.

Later in the day, we went with our guide, Ralph, on a tour of Hamburg’s harbor. Walking to the harbor, we saw multipurpose water barriers. When these water barriers are not in use, they are simply steps and a place for people to walk or watch the water. However, these devices can elongate on rails adjacent to them in order to prevent water from going into the streets. The Port of Hamburg is located on the river Elbe, and it is Germany’s largest port. This busy harbor is home for an array of ships including container carriers, tankers, cruise ships, and many others. The depth of the harbor is an issue that it is currently dealing with. The present depth of the harbor is not deep enough for larger world ships to come through the port, and there is discussion about whether or not it should be dredged in order to accommodate them. Many environmentalists are concerned with the ecological implications of dredging. Also, the city has been struggling with the EU Commission as well as the people living in the surrounding area over these issues.

The boat that took our group around the Port of Hamburg. Our tour guide narrated the harbour tour.

After the harbor tour, we walked through some of the St. Pauli district of Hamburg. In this area, there is a lot of public participation in influencing governmental decisions. For instance, there have been areas where companies have tried to kick out tenants, but locals have occupied the buildings to ensure that there is housing for those of low income. Because of these public actions, the government created a new participation process to increase public engagement and input from the citizens for the architects and planners to use. This plan led to pictures being put up to illustrate what a space could look like, and the public would then, in turn comment, on the proposal. This idea allows designs to put people first while showing that the city belongs to all.

Another strong example of public engagement was seen through the Garten Deck in St. Pauli. The Garten Deck incorporates flowers, beehives, compost, and seating for the public to enjoy. This urban garden was formed as a self-organized space that demonstrated to politicians the desire and need for public space within the city.

-Stephen Lapp