Hanover Railway Station Memorial Site, Hamburg, Germany

History Speaks

Client: HafenCity Hamburg GmbH
Period: 2013 – 2018
Surface area: 8 300m2

The architectural remnants of the Hanover railway station have their own distinct visual language.  Although not all materials today are original, the railway nevertheless maintains its history – its form and location articulate its past. The lowered elevation, like a deeper geological layer, references history as the memorial rests one meter below the future park level and about three meters below the city level. This elevation is and will remain a spatial expression of the railway’s historical significance, exposing the past like an archaeological excavation and bringing it to the surface. Through its form, materials and structure, it tells its story implicitly. This quality is maintained and emphasized by the design. Because the historic details are to be comprehensively illustrated in a documentation centre, the railway station is freed from the role of didactic memorial, allowing us to decline from interpretative interventions. The telling, unchanged historical form states it case with simple, direct clarity. The historical site’s significance is strengthened with targeted but subtle measures: the three central elements are linked to a sequence of spaces of different content, atmospheres and usages.

The extended track system is accessible from the park via a ramp. The connection between Lohseplatz and the memorial is choreographed to make the changing route physically and viscerally perceptible during the walk. The wall that crosses the interstices between railway and park strengthens the spatial effect of the process. This confining, guiding wall finally opens up. In order to preserve the viewpoints along the park on the city level, and to strengthen the spatial effect and legibility of the memorial site, this conjunction is accompanied on the city level by birch trees, robinia and, sporadically, summer lilacs – pioneer shrubs that spread out along the railway tracks. The wall’s surfaces, with a pre-fill of chip concrete, show slight folds. They are left exposed to various influences in the weather so that mosses, lichens, etc. accumulate quickly and become increasingly differentiated over time. The floor covering is a unifying element among the three parts of the historical complex; the path is paved like Lohseplatz and sections of the memorial. A visually filigree, open bicycle/pedestrian bridge passes over the conjunction. The view of the bridge responds to the covering: its airy steel structure and the delicate railings combine to make the future city level and the historical railway area harmonious in composition. Behind the memorial site, on park level, a thickening hedge is behind the existing birches which on one hand, frame the area, and on the other, act as a visual filter to the railway embankment. Passing trains and their noise are reduced to moving patterns appearing in staggered spaces between the trees. The design creates an accessible, not overly loaded historical metaphor that viewers may interpret according to their individual contexts and backgrounds. The design, in which incomprehensible and unexpected historical elements appear, provokes questions. The visitor is free to decide whether to leave these questions unanswered, or not.