In Hamburg, a derelict customs house becomes an oasis for creativity
URBAN RETREAT: On the deck outside their riverfront meeting space, the partners at feldmann+schultchen enjoy a sundowner. (Photo: Chris Turner)
In the previous two parts of this series on Hamburg-style accidental sustainability, I’ve talked about Unilever’s exemplary green headquarters and the backhanded way that a seafood retailer came to create a better and more sustainable packing crate. The final chapter is a Friday afternoon sort of lesson, a tale of R&R and the creative process and the recycling of urban space.
And so consider the sort of party/presentation/retreat space established in recent years by the design firm of feldmann+schultchen (the minds behind that aforementioned sustainable packing crate). It’s a funky, loftlike space, adjacent to a couple of other small studios inhabited by artists, dreamers and entrepreneurs. Until feldmann+schultchen arrived, this complex of creative work spaces was a flotilla of decommisioned customs houses at the mouth of the Elbe River.
Visitors loved it, and I can report firsthand exactly why they do: it’s gently but undeniably transcendent. The f+s crew shuttle you there by tugboat, invite you to grab a drink (Hamburg’s beloved local brewery Astra is a longtime client, so there’s always plenty of good German beer around), watch the sun play on the water and the old shipyards across the river. Basically everything a corporate wilderness retreat does using hundreds of miles of distance and much more ceremony, f+s’ little customs shack does just a couple of miles from the center of Germany’s second-largest city.
And so it always seems to go with Hamburg’s stylish take on sustainability, where simple goals — an office space built for better communication, a fish crate that reinforces the high quality of the product, the happenstance of discovering a think tank floating on the nearby river — seem pretty much by accident to produce models of sustainable business practice along the way. Maybe it’s something in the water. Or the beer.