HafenCity Headquarters: SPIEGEL Moves to a New Home

The SPIEGEL Group recently moved to its new headquarters in Hamburg. The modern and spacious new office building, designed by Denmark's Henning Larsen Architects, is an important part of the port city's ambitious HafenCity, one of the largest urban redevelopment projects currently taking shape in Europe.

For 42 years, SPIEGEL was located in an understated high rise, a skeleton construction of glass and steel concrete with a total of 8,226 square meters of office space.

During the early years, the once spacious headquarters even had room for a swimming pool that was the stuff of legends. The canteen, with bold, extreme colors, was conceived by Danish designer Verner Panton, whose vision made the building famous. The site was often used for film and television shoots.

However, as far back as the 1980s, the quarters began getting cramped. In 1988, the company's SPIEGEL TV unit was forced to move to the nearby historical Chile Haus building; and, in 1995, the company had to rent an additional high rise to meet its growing need for space. The company continued to expand, and, in 2000, SPIEGEL ONLINE was forced to move into its own building and the fabled SPIEGEL swimming pool was transformed into an archive.

Uniting Our Journalists Under One Roof

In 2007, SPIEGEL's executive management, together with investor and property manager Robert Vogel GmbH, invited 14 architectural firms to bid in a competition to build the company's new Hamburg headquarters. Their task was to come up with the design for a new home for all the editorial teams within the SPIEGEL Group.

The building is now complete, and in September 2011 the first divisions of SPIEGEL began moving in. The new office is located at the eastern tip of Hamburg's HafenCity, a major urban redevelopment project that has seen the creation of an entirely new district in what was formerly the port city's docks area. It is only a five-minute walk away from the company's former location.

With total space of 30,000 square meters, the new office building is one of the largest in all of Hamburg. The 61-meter-tall (200-feet) building was designed by Denmark's Henning Larson Architects, who also designed the Copenhagen Opera House. The building is comprised of 13 stories, and the windows are framed with white metal. The glass facades resemble austere grids, but the north side of the building is more open in what the architects call a "window to the city."

Inside, the building has an atrium as high as the building itself, flanked by galleries and crossed by nine staircases and four bridges. Here, too, the architects wanted to create an image of networks, transparency and communication.

The editorial staff of SPIEGEL ONLINE is located on the top floor in an open-plan office, with the editors of the print SPIEGEL, manager magazin and colleagues from SPIEGEL TV located on the floors beneath it.

Reminiscences of Earlier Times

A snack bar is located on the fifth floor which quotes the stylistic elements of the old canteen: colorful wall lighting, violet fabric prisms and lamps in orange and purple. Given the references to the old building, it is the perfect place to share SPIEGEL's rich history with a new generation of reporters and editors.

SPIEGEL's new employee cafeteria is located on the ground floor and also has a terrace that extends to the waterfront. Stuttgart designers Peter Ippolito and Gunter Fleitz won the competition to design the space. They wanted a bright room, so they cast a terrazzo floor and designed an acoustic ceiling with 4,300 small aluminium plates that reflect the light in matt.

The company's new address is Ericusspitze 1. The location is named after former Hamburg official Erich Soltau, who went by the better-sounding name Ericus Soltow, and lived from 1548 to 1632.

During his time in office, the Thirty-Years War broke out. The city of Hamburg responded by constructing fortresses along the waterfront, and the bastion located at the furthest southeast point was called the Ericus Bastion at the time. Even today, the Ericusspitze is surrounded by water on two sides.

The area is part of the city's ambitious HafenCity project, one of Europe's largest urban redevelopment projects. In a project similar to efforts undertaken by Barcelona and London, Hamburg is bringing its city center closer to the waterfront.

A new downtown district replete with offices, stores and residential areas is taking shape along the banks of the Elbe River, with the new SPIEGEL offices offering a bookend to the east and the Elbphilharmonie symphony building designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron anchoring the district's west end.

A Renaissance of the City Center

A compact city that makes the most efficient possible use of the limited space available is the environmentally friendly aim of contemporary architecture, and Hamburg wants to create a model with HafenCity. In 2007, the EU member states' ministers responsible for urban development signed the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable Cities, which declared the renaissance of city centers as its central goal.

The charter marks a significant departure from the model of the functional city that had been formulated by Swiss architect Le Corbusier in his Athens Charter of 1933. Le Corbusier wanted to divide living, work and shopping from one another and create spacious cityscapes. But it was ultimately proven that the decentralized city merely caused additional stress because of the predominent role automobiles played in these cities. Residents ultimately commuted between their places of work, residence and where they shopped.

The compactly structured city, on the other hand, is today considered to be more environmentally friendly. This is one reason the highest environmental standards are also de rigueur for the buildings taking shape in HafenCity. Even before its construction, German authorities had already "pre-verified" the gold environmental seal for SPIEGEL's new headquarters.

The building eschews conventional heating and air-conditioning. All windows are triple glazed and the building is both warmed and cooled using geothermal energy. Seventy soil sensors located up to 100 meters (330 feet) beneath the earth's surface regulate the temperature. Photovoltaic panels also produce some of the building's energy requirements.

Last month, Ferdinand Räthling, who manages SPIEGEL's properties, described the technology behind the new building to editors who hadn't yet visited. The journalists learned that the lighting in their new offices would be dependent on what was happening with the light outside and also whether they were actually present in the room. "If you don't move for a while," he warned the editors, "the lights will turn off on their own."

A building where the lights go out if journalists don't move: Moving was clearly the right decision.

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