With the relocation of the main train station to the western suburbs in the early 1900s, the opening of the Elbe-Lübeck Canal, and the construction of a new long-distance trading port on the northern wall peninsula, both the harbors north and south of the Holsten Gate on the western edge of Lübeck´s Old Town became insignificant.
What at first seemed like a curse turned out to be a blessing: the Old Town and the offshore peninsulas were able to take on new functions including cultural life, education, and a wide range of commercial activities derived from the ever-increasing city tourism.
However, the soon to follow traffic-oriented development of the 1960s did not take into account the relationship with the waterfront nor the provision for leisure within open spaces, and its implementation fulfilled a purely utilitarian purpose. In this context, the redesign of the public open space on the western edge of the Old Town offered an exceptional chance to reconnect the city and the water, fostering a rich, retroactive relationship between the two.
The theme “Lübeck on the water” is then taken up as motivation for the planning of the Drehbrückenplatz as part of the international competition “Redevelopment of the western edge of the Old Town in Lübeck”, at which TGP would win the 1st prize in 2003.
The Drehbrückenplatz (Square of the Swing Bridge) derives its name from the swing bridge built in 1892 as an essential part of the original planning undertaken by engineer Peter Rehders for the expansion of Lübeck’s city ports in 1884. The swing bridge, with its fully functional hydraulic system made of riveted steel trusses, as well as the neo-Gothic bridge house, the Warehouse 6 and the Lübeck Merchants’ Warehouse built in 1898 -now renovated and rebranded as Media Docks-, form an ensemble of industrial and harbor structures that is unique to Lübeck, where cranes and ships from the harbor’s museum blend timelessly into the scenery.
The aforementioned ensemble is staged here via a clear square conceived as a generous harbor area that stretches from the Hansa Harbor culminating in a newly designed flight of steps to the water. The creation of a square at this point allows the buildings of the harbor and Lübeck’s Old Town façades to be experienced in close connection.
The height difference between the square and the bridge´ slightly elevated platform is offset by a triple array of drag steps merging seamlessly with the sawn-cut granite stones that populate the center of the square. A granite wall at seat height skirts the existing poplar tree, framing the grass and perennial planting under it in a free form.
Facing south, a large flight of steps makes its way directly onto the river Trave.
Two seating steps in different heights, extending altogether for over 40 meters, are accessible from both sides following a barrier-free sloped pathway. The lowest level platform extends forward over the water allowing for SUPs and paddle boats to land directly at the Untertrave. The water steps are made of precast concrete blocks with wooden tops crafted in squared timber, matching that of the complementary benches and loungers, aligning the overall integration of this feature with that of comfort and relevance within the context of the harbor.
The Drehbrückenplatz, and in particular the water steps, are introduced and spatially defined by five newly planted trees in the direction of the Museum Harbor. As an extension of this row of trees, a small architecture with public toilet and sales kiosk (fish hut) is to be found.
In this area, the existing paving in its different widths and lengths had been taken up, cleaned, mixed with other paving from the city and re-laid. A comfortable 2.2-meter-wide walkway made of new large-format granite slabs accompanies the quay wall parallel to the row of trees. At the beginning of this paving, a tactile guiding strip leads throughout the walkway and continues across the entire square.
Contrary to the linear illumination of the street space, the main square area is bathed in a uniform light provided by three 12-meter-high poles equipped with individual spotlights.
The Drehbrückenplatz is the culmination, not only of extensive interdisciplinary planning, but also from participatory efforts carried out by the city of Lübeck in cooperation with TGP.
Stemming from the inscription of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, the conservation and protection of the cityscape is of utmost importance for modern architectural interventions in the Old Town. From the choice of materials to the selection of the trees, the planning appends to these values while enhancing the inherent nature of its location.
Since its public inauguration in December of 2019, the Drehbrückenplatz has been embraced as part of Lubeck´s identity, rapidly becoming an unequivocal reference point of the city life, and ultimately restoring the dialogue between the city, its inhabitants, and the water.
Architecture offices involved in the design:
Planner: pbh Planungsbüro HAHM GmbH, Lübeck
Engineers: BÖGER + JÄCKLE Gesellschaft Beratender Ingenieure mbH & Co. KG
And der Untertrave
Design year: 2015 – 2016
1st Price in the Competition „Neugestaltung des westlichen Altstadtrands Realisierungswettbewerb“, 2003
Year Built: 2016 – 2020