Kontorhausviertel Hamburg: 1920s expressionism at its finest

The question hardly needs to be asked; of course, the Kontorhausviertel in Hamburg is a treasure. Built on the basis of American office block designs from the late 19th century, the style was seized upon by German expressionist architects in the 1920s. The result is a delectable fusion of North American practicality and North German Hanseatic sobriety.

Der Sprinkenhof, (built from 1927-1943), rent: 13.50 EUR per square meter.

Der Sprinkenhof, (built from 1927-1943), rent: 13.50 EUR per square meter.

Originally, the office blocks (Kontorhäuser) were equipped with paternoster (basically, open elevators which remain constantly in motion, thus requiring the passengers to literally hop on or hop off). Today, most have modern elevators - with the exception of the Sprinkenhof above, which still has a paternoster available for the use of the tenants.

Der Mohlenhof (built 1928-1929), rent: 14,00 EUR per square meter.

Der Mohlenhof (built 1928-1929), rent: 14,00 EUR per square meter.

Another beautiful office building is the Mohlenhof, which features a fusion of North German sandstone materials and fired red brick. The sandstone, together with the statue decorations, showcase the Mohlenhof's slightly more backward-looking architectural style.

Das Chilehaus (built 1922-1924), rent: 15,50 EUR per square meter.

Das Chilehaus (built 1922-1924), rent: 15,50 EUR per square meter.

The world-famous Chilehaus is the most desirable of all the Kontorhäuser and, accordingly, has the highest priced rent for office space. It is also the best example of the expressionist style deployed throughout this part of town and is, like its neighbors, under historical protection.

Not quite Bauhaus, not quite Art Nouveau.

Not quite Bauhaus, not quite Art Nouveau.

Expressionism straddles the artistic divide between Bauhaus and Art Nouveau. It includes whimsical elements and, at the same time, pays homage to modernism. As with the doorway above, the hearkening back to gothic elements is more obvious, perhaps, than in the other photographs. The medieval era evoked, of course, was known for its fantastical stories and its imagination, which are two elements the expressionist architects sought to capture.

Never far from the water.

Never far from the water.

From the adjacent Dovenfleet we have a view of the German Customs Museum and the Hamburg Port Authority. Although the tourists I photographed are undoubtedly having a great time, if they want to see the Kontorhausviertel, they'll still need to do some walking later. 

A cat is the perfect maritime law firm mascot: They can hydrate with seawater!

Immigrant tenant, German landlord - reflections and English advice

Immigrant tenant, German landlord - reflections and English advice