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Although it might be described as a “city of white” with all the white villas and swans along the Alster, Hamburg is, in fact, a city of red
During the 1920s the so-called Brick Expressionism architects cultivated a special variant expressionist style for using red bricks known as “clinker” (clinker expressionism). Up until today, these red buildings, shape the face of this city and most of them remain the most beautiful and exciting sights of this city. Let’s take a walk and visit the red beauties.
Starting near the city centre, you’ll find an imposing building reminiscent of an old castle: The Patriotische Gesellschaft Building. This building has been home the Patriotic Society, Germany’s oldest civil society, for over 100 years. It was built on the grounds of the former City Hall and a rather good restaurant remains there as a reminder of this fact with the name Zum Alten Rathaus. You can sit outside and have a lunch and wait until the sunlight hits the dark-red bricks, making it appear especially appealing and warm.
Walking over to the waterside, where the Kontorhausviertel and the Merchant House Quarters await with the crown jewels of Brick Expressionism. Before reaching them, there’s a hidden gem: The “red brick dark horse” at Stubbenhuk 10 – a soft and twisting Merchant building with a rather dark and impressive brick facade. Make sure to walk in and take a long look at (and some Instagrammable photos of) the magnificent stairwell. The doors are usually open.
If you walk towards the undisputed Queen of Brick Expressionism, the Chilehaus, you pass a number of truly beautiful specimens of red brick merchant houses: The Kontorhausviertel is rather impressive in its entirety. It was declared a world heritage site in 2015 by UNESCO. But even among this marvellous ensemble, the Chilehaus remains a spectacular stand-out – a true icon which has claimed the world heritage status even longer, since 1984.
It was built in 1924 for the super wealthy banker Henry Sloman, who made his fortune in the thriving saltpetre business in Chile, thus the name. It was built with roughly 4.8 million clinkers which were arranged in knitted patterns and a cusp that points into the sky like the bow of a mighty passenger ship. It does not get any more expressive than this!
It’s just a short walk from the Kontorhausviertel over to the Speicherstadt, the ultimate brick building complex – the Taj Mahal of red clinker for any fans and fetishists. Warm red buildings facades for miles and miles. But even here there is certain building that tops off all the others: The old Speicherstadt City Hall called simply by its address, “Bei St. Annen 1”. It seems like something from a fairy tale. The Neuschwanstein Castle for brick lovers. When the building was completed in 1912, it became home to the most modern logistics centres in the world. Today the all-mighty HHLA, who owns most of the Harbour District has their offices here. A true place of power.