Staircases are the calling card of a building. All you have to do to see them is go inside. But where in Hamburg do you find the most beautiful spirals among them? In this small guide I’ll show you nine great locations. So why not visit one of them in your next lunch break or at your upcoming Hamburg visit?
TEXT & PHOTOS: SUSANNE KRIEG
Yoga for the eye: by nine floors winds this beautiful, glowing auger from railings and clay tiles. The staircase belongs to one of the largest office complexes Hamburg had to offer in the 1920s. The Sprinkenhof, as it is called, was one of the first houses in which several companies could rent offices under one roof (an idea with American Roots). The Sprinkenhof is situated in the immediate vicinity of the Chile house, the heart of the so-called Kontorhaus district, Hamburg’s recent contribution to the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage. Until this day the Sprinkenhof houses mainly offices. That’s why it is accessible to the public only during the week.
→ Burchardstraße 8 / map
Hamburg-based architecture has also its brutal pages. Let’s have a look at the bunker at Feldstrasse, near Heiligengeistfeld: pure brutalism! But inside it hides an almost fragile-looking spiral staircase. In the concrete monster, that served as a flak tower during World War II, you’ll find more great things today: e.g. the club Übel & Gefährlich or the Web Radio station byte FM. A new investor plans to increase the Bunker from 40 to 60 meters. He also wants to plant a jungle on the roof, put a sports hall inside as well as guest houses – another megalomaniac project in the making?
→ Feldstraße 6 / map
It won’t get greener than this! At least not in the Versmannhaus. You can find the Kontor House between the Mönckebergstraße and the Knochenhauertwiete (Oh, how I love these creepy street names! I am pleased to mention this one here!). The building was completed in 1912 an was named after a Hamburg mayor. Somewhat puzzling but cute: the „Seahorse“ in the floor mosaic.
→ Mönckebergstr 29 / map
Like a coffee with milk after mixing… This staircase belongs to the Detjenhaus. The post-war period office building is located on the Kajen, with the best view of the harbor and the Speicherstadt. From the outside, the detjenhaus looks simple, but the interior scores with its sweeping minimalism.
→ Kajen 6-8 / map
5. Ballin Haus (Meßberg-Hof)
This staircase reminds me of a nautilus, symbol for perfect proportion. Less nice: the story behind the name of the building in which the stair resides. Initially it was called Ballin House, according to the Hamburg shipowner Albert Ballin. But because he was of Jewish origin, the Nazis renamed the Kontorhaus in 1938 to Meßberg-Hof. A cruel irony of fate would have it that the company Tesch & Stabenow settled inside the building. It sold Zyklon B to Auschwitz. Today, the Bauer Media Group has its main offices here. I find it more than questionable, that the building has not gotten its old name back again ever since …
→ Burchardstraße 11 / map
This light spiral winds through a tower of the Zurich House. It was created between1989 and 1992 according to plans by the architects Gerkan, Marg and Partner. Another special feature: in the A Foucault pendulum also swings in this staircase, some may known it from Umberto Ecco’s eponymous novel. To reach the staircase is only possible via the adjacent main hall of the building, where you find equally impressive glass roofs and glass fronts, a water basin and trees. The staircase is located to the right of the entrance hall.
→ Domstraße, 20095 Hamburg / map
You could almost overlook the entrance to the esplanadebau . It is squeezed between the Hofbräuhaus and Baseler Hof. The automotive manufacturer Heinrich Kleyer erected the building in 1915, as a representative office of the Frankfurt branch of Adler. At that time one in five cars on German roads were an „Adler“, as Kleyer’s vehicles were called. The lobby and marble staircase with its mixture of Art Deco and Art Nouveau are breathtakingly beautiful.
→ Esplanade 6 / map
An auger in black-and-white. Discovered where? In an tower of the old Postal Directorate at Stephansplatz. The post office is gone by now. Today the building turned into the glamorous seat of the so-called Dermatologikum. It is probably the most famous private skin clinic of Hamburg. If go inside inside, across the main building, walk past the pharmacy and the Cafe, and you will enter a beautiful glass-covered courtyard, surrounded by ornate brick walls worth seeing.
→ Stephansplatz 5 / map
9. Brahms Kontor
Art Deco lamps, colorful tiles and an impressive staircase eye make the Brahms Kontor become an example for the outstanding architecture of the Weimar Republic. However, the right-wing nationalistic builders, the „German Trade Assistants Association“ (DHV), actually fought against the cultural and political objectives of the Weimar Republic that was eventually overcome by Hitler. After the war, the British occupied the building opposite the Laieszhalle. Later, it served as the Hamburg police bureau. Today the „ver.di“ union manages the Brahms Kontor. But with the famous composer Johannes Brahms it has very little to do.
→ Johannes-Brahms-Platz 1 / map
A glance at my google map below shows: the locations within this guide are not so far away from each other. Actually, you can easily see all in a day if you like! However, at weekends, it could be difficult to access some of the office buildings. That is why you should rather take this tour during the week! Don’t forget your camera!