A building exhibition (IBA) for the revitalization of a deprived area
After the biggest storm surge in Hamburg’s history in 1962, hundreds of Wilhelmsburg residents lost their lives. The remaining residents slowly left their quarter due to the scale of devastation. Dedicated citizens from Wilhelmsburg took initiative and achieved in 2001 the financing of a “Future Conference Wilhelmsburg” by the Hamburg Senate. They worked together with the authorities to create a vision of Europe’s largest river island. As a result, Hamburg adopted the mission statement “Leap over the river Elbe” and in 2005 Hamburg formulated the memorandum for the “International Building Exhibition” (IBA) Hamburg 2013. The southern districts were to be developed and used for the inner growth of the booming metropolis. A building exhibition is much more than a mere exhibition. It is an instrument of visionary urban development. Visitors do not only see buildings. At an IBA, people are researching and developing live, just like in a lab, within a given time frame. IBA Hamburg takes a holistic approach to local development with the creation of both; innovative residential districts and sustainable commercial areas. IBA Hamburg initiates and tracks competition procedures and calls for expert opinions, it develops functional plans and town-planning concepts for the project area, establishes the procedures leading to a binding land use plan and manages the site development and sale of units.

Resources needed

The IBA Hamburg was financed through a special investment program by the City of Hamburg with initially 100, and from 2011 90.2 million euros, which included the employment of 26 staff members. The private investment volume initiated by the IBA, amounts to more than 700 million euros.

Evidence of success

The IBA Hamburg 2013 celebrated its presentation year with 70 projects. Some projects were still under construction, others - such as the "Climate Protection Concept Renewable Wilhelmsburg" - are designed for the long term. In total, the IBA Hamburg 2013 had 1733 apartments under construction or completed, thereof 516 modernizations. In addition, there are 70 hectares of green spaces. Over 420,000 visitors were counted at IBA exhibitions, tours and events.

Difficulties encountered

Difficulties at the beginning were the lack of investors, due to the location of the project. The area the IBA worked with, had “bad headlines” and did not have a good prestige in Hamburg. Nevertheless, the plan to improve and develop the situation in this area worked out just fine.

Potential for learning or transfer

It is possible to adapt the IBAs practice to other regions. It would be interesting to witness and learn from the transition of more or less desolated locations where problems and opportunities lie close together. However, to make the transferability an easy step is something that has already been worked on. Since centuries, international building exhibitions have become a future-oriented experimental field of urban planning and thus a special "trademark" of planning and building culture in Germany. In order to ensure the transferability of experiences and their further development at future international building exhibitions and to set benchmarks in everyday practice, the Federal Ministry of Transport, Construction and City development, promoted the establishment of the network „IBA meets IBA”. On the initiative of the IBA Hamburg, a first exchange of experience took place for the first time in 2007 with 30 experts from past, current and future international building exhibitions.

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Main institution
IBA Hamburg GmbH
Hamburg, Germany (Deutschland)
Start Date
January 2006
End Date
January 2013


Aurelien Parsy Please login to contact the author.