Marco Polo Tower
Directly on the Elbe, commanding a prominent position in the HafenCity, stands the Marco Polo Tower, right beside the new Unilever headquarters. The tower punctuates the end of the route from the inner city out to the new attractions, the Cruise Ship Terminal and the Promenade on Strandkai. The Marco Polo Terraces sculpture the ground and create a fitting setting from which the public areas lead on to the new assembly of Unilever headquarters and Marco Polo Tower. The residential tower stands in the Northwest corner of the site, with its entrance and atrium opening out to the city’s public spaces. Landscaped surroundings for both buildings flow together and become one with those of the HafenCity. The Marco Polo Tower is the first residential building to have been completed on Strandkai. Its 17 above ground levels, each turned a few degrees on their axis, allow all 58 apartments spectacular views over the Elbe, the Hamburg cityscape and HafenCity. Generous perimeter terraces and balconies extend the living areas out into a soft play of lines, and lend the tower its distinctive image. The 55 metre high residential tower, in its form and arrangement, is a unique and remarkable sculptured building, adding to Hamburg’s silhouette on the Elbe. Terraces and balconies, with their free and playful leitmotif, guide visitors into the several storey high atrium. Flanking the reception area there will also be commercial units at ground and first floor levels, contributing in turn to a lively atmosphere. Rising from the second floor there are 15 levels of apartments. The contrast between geometrically ordered spaces and the free design of the perimeter provides an interesting tension, which adds to the spatial experience of the interiors. Although high in the air, generous terraces give the apartments the quality of ground level living with open external grounds. These terraces are extensions of the living areas and protected by a band of either solid or transparent balustrades, which yet again emphasize the tower’s playful form. Apartments are between 60 and 340 square metres in area. A high degree of flexibility is offered with the possibility of increasing areas by connecting neighbouring apartments. External variations in appearance are therefore reflected in the interiors, in that no level, or apartment, is quite like any other. Choices can range from two room apartments to large penthouses with maisonette characteristics. Load-bearing structural elements and necessary fixed services have all been reduced as much as possible, so that the residents themselves can decide where they want to sleep, cook, eat, bathe or relax. On entering the apartment one has an uninterrupted view over an open plan living room landscape, through generously sized glass panels, to the outside world and Hamburg’s roofscape. The apartments are sold design-ready. Clients can design their new home, with the help of an interior architect, according to their own taste. Seven internationally known architects and interior designers were asked to display their knowledge. The concept for residential spaces proposed by the architects of the tower emphasizes natural light and views. Interior layouts for everyday functions are based on a precise analysis of natural light over the course of the day. A dawn sun on waking-up, or a sunset seen from the terrace at the end of the day, define sleeping or lounging areas. An apartment’s optimal day lighting influences area sizes, their relationships to each other and, last but not least, by carefully choosing light-coloured and reflecting materials, it is possible to direct daylight in an optimum manner inside the apartment. The careful choice of materials defines spaces with a high degree of comfort, affording free views of the entire living space. By avoiding too many fittings or partitions, the generous dimensions of the spaces are left open. Interior and exterior are bound together to such an extent that borders between the two seem to melt away. Different flooring, ceiling, and wall materials mark and define areas, without physically separating them. The building’s architecture displays a generous and dynamically developed language of form, and the apartment’s interior design character carries this through as a total concept, in line with the building itself. The Marco Polo Tower brings together high-class living accommodation and a holistic ecological building concept. The recessed façades are protected from direct sun by the overhanging terraces above so that additional sunshades are not necessary. Vacuum collectors on the roof, using a heat exchanger, turn heat gain into a cooling system for the apartments. Along with generous glazing there are also large areas of solid façade. The sliding walls not only reduce heat loss in winter but are also thermal heat storage elements, important to ameliorate interior temperature comfort levels. Innovative sound insulated air louvres in the sleeping areas make natural ventilation possible without increased noise pollution from outside. An additional mechanical ventilation system for the apartments, using decentralized units with integrated heat recycling and a low temperature floor heating system altogether work for the least possible energy loss in the apartments. The harbour can be noisy. Therefore, the HafenCity master plan ensures that residential areas, even when provided with fresh air through opening windows, have protective features such as double facades, glazed loggias, winter gardens or other similarly effective details, to reduce night time noise levels to below 30 dB (A). To achieve this, the Marco Polo Tower planning team developed a specially insulated ventilation flap, which makes it possible to reach the required values by means of slot ventilation even without large-volume winter gardens or loggias in front of window openings. This allows natural ventilation in the tower despite high wind speeds in the HafenCity. In order to keep the Tower’s unified image these flaps are disguised by enameled glass surfaces, set in front of the normally closed façade.


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