Thursday, 20 May 2021

Great Railway Stations No.19: Hamburg Hauptbahnhof

The vast steel and glass train shed that spans 14 platforms at Hamburg Hbf was based on the Galerie des machines built in Paris for the Exposition Universelle of 1889 (casually and callously disposed of by the city authorities in 1910 to improve the view of the Champ de Mars).  An uninterrupted span was achieved with the support of steel trusses that flared out as they rose upwards and the hinged arch profile was identical to its Parisian ancestor.  It’s a through station with platforms set below street level - dramatic overviews of the station interior can be seen from the Nordsteg and Südsteg overbridges. The span measured 135 meters compared with 115 for the Galerie des machines.  Administration buildings and the main entrance were at the north end of the station, marked by two clock towers, one of which survived wartime bombing in 1943.  As planned, the buildings would have been decorated in Art Nouveau style but the story goes that Kaiser Wilhelm II took an interest and had them replaced with more austere Neo-Renaissance detailing giving a militaristic appearance more to his liking.  Planning the station was a complex exercise in rationalisation to combine the rail traffic from four existing termini, in and around the city centre, into a single through station.  An architectural competition was held and construction of the winning design took place between 1902 and 1906.  Today the city is connected by ICE trains to every major population centre in Germany and serves as a point of entry to European destinations for rail  travellers from Scandinavia.  Changes are on the way - in 2021 the city announced a competition for redevelopment of the station and surrounding area.


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