The young and experimental cultural programme develops exemplary new formats at the intersection between art and city planning in the HafenCity of Hamburg. The goal is to implant artistic perspectives early on and on a long-term base in the processes of urban development - and embed culture indefeasible in civil society.  With its intertwining of urban planning and aesthetic strategies IMAGINE THE CITY also positions itself within an international context in a bid to contribute to current debates on the role that culture plays in the development of future cities. The programme is an invitation to look at, and reflect on, the limited range of cultural institutions and establish in the public sphere other notions of what culture can or should be. Since November 2018 a number of long-term projects are set to intervene in what is still a young urban fabric, under the titular leitmotif IMAGINE THE CITY. To this end, curator Ellen Blumenstein is working alongside Hamburg culture professionals and international creatives to come up together with fictitious arrangements capable of bringing various groups of users into contact with one another. The programme sees itself as a vector for potential encounters with, in, and through the urban built-up environment. The outcome is an ever-expanding network of locations in everyday urban life that can be used beyond the realm of consumerism. IMAGINE THE CITY is an invitation to look at, and reflect on, the limited range of cultural institutions and establish in the public sphere other notions of what culture can or should be. The aim, ultimately, is to dispel the fear of the unknown when it comes to culture, firstly by addressing everyday experiences and, secondly, by going beyond the exclusive institutional framework.

Ellen Blumenstein

As HafenCity’s first curator, Ellen Blumenstein has been drawing up long-term strategies for this urban district since August 2017 to make cultural events accessible to a broad public. She is currently visiting professor for the theory and practice of exhibition work at the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg. From 2012 to 2016 Ellen Blumenstein was in charge of the programme for the KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Kunst-Werke) in Berlin, producing among others solo presentations by Kader Attia (2013), Lizzie Fitch / Ryan Trecartin (2014), and Renzo Martens (2015) and the theme-based exhibitions Real Emotions. Thinking in Film (with Franz Rodenkirchen and Daniel Tyradellis, 2014), Under Weapons. Fire & Forget (with Daniel Tyradellis, 2015), and Secret Surface. Where Meaning Materializes (with Catherine Wood, 2016). Before that, she formulated the concepts for projects for the Kassel documenta (2012), the Icelandic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2011), and the ZKM Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe (2006) and for museums in Spain, Portugal, Brazil and the US. Her curatorial work revolves around elaborating new formats for cultural output and its mediation.



The post of a curator responsible for a distinct cultural programme within the quarter was instigated by HafenCity Hamburg GmbH (HCH) and awarded, for the first time, in August 2017 to Ellen Blumenstein as part of a jury-assessed public procedure. The HCH ensures the basic financing of the cultural programme during the pilot phase and supports the newly established art and culture association ‘Kunst und Kultur in der HafenCity e. V.[EB1] [S2] ’, which as a non-profit organisation acquires and administers additional financial resources for the curatorial programme. The association follows up on the successful co-operation venture Kunst und Kultur in der HafenCity from 2006 to 2016 between Hamburg’s Körber Foundation, the Hamburg Cultural Foundation, and the HCH, which facilitated more than twenty cultural projects in HafenCity while setting itself the goal of supporting culture in the quarter and actively intervening in the urban space. The association’s founding members are Prof. Norbert Aust (chairman), Prof. Jürgen Bruns-Berentelg (deputy chairman), Prof. Dr Uwe M. Schneede (deputy chairman), Eva Hubert (treasurer), Sonja Bocek, Dr Johannes Conradi, Andreas Heller, Peter Hess, Dr Sandra Schürmann, Arne Weber, Brigitte Witthoefft, and Prof. Dr Gesa Ziemer. If you would like to support the programme drawn up by the HafenCity curator with a donation, become a sponsoring member of Kunst und Kultur in der HafenCity e. V., or find out more about the association’s activities, please contact the Board at

HafenCity Culture

For HafenCity as a Hamburg inner city expansion scheme and major international urban development project, cultural development is crucial. During the early phase, long before the first residents had moved in, cultural projects were in fact the attraction that showcased the new quarter, shaping its identity and imbuing it with vibrant life. As the project area expanded, a multitude of new venues and programmes emerged, steadily adding to Hamburg’s cultural offer.

Today, eighteen years after the HafenCity master plan was adopted, culture is an integral part of everyday life in the area. More than 400 cultural events are held in HafenCity every year – over and beyond the Elbphilharmonie concerts. They range from major festivals such as the Elbjazz Festival or Theater der Welt (2017) to exhibitions, cabaret, and events in the Summer in HafenCity annual programme to regular jazz and classical music concerts at Halle 424 in the Oberhafen Culture and Creative Quarter. In fact, on 13 November 2018, this multi-purpose workshop hall and music location was awarded the Applaus venue prize by Initiative Musik for best live music programme by a German club.

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To sound out the prospects for cultural development, the cultural authorities and the port and location development company Gesellschaft für Hafen und Standortentwicklung (HafenCity Hamburg GmbH’s predecessor company) held a kick-off symposium as far back as 2001 in the then recently opened HafenCity Information Centre Kesselhaus. From 2002 onwards, i.e. even before the first building on Grosser Grasbrook had been completed, Hamburg artists specifically regularly made use of the construction sites and vacant lots to stage their art and music projects in the public space, including the serial format Musikalische LandArt Tune as well as installations and events as part of the ArtGenda.

These early experimental years were followed by a phase of consolidation and institutionalisation. In view of the expanding spatial opportunities and the increasing number of requests for projects, the Cultural Co-ordination Committee was set up in 2005 as an interdisciplinary advisory board to ensure the cultural quality and monitor the subsequent cultural development. The Committee is comprised of representatives of the cultural authorities and HafenCity Hamburg GmbH as well as various cultural fields and Hamburg institutions.

Soon after it was set up, the Co-ordination Committee formulated its objective not just to implement cultural projects based on concepts put forward by established players from the city itself, but also to proactively initiate its own projects and develop its own programmes. At the same time cultural collaborations in HafenCity were also on the increase, with for instance alternating summer stage productions by the Thalia Theatre and the Harbour Front Literary Festival.

As a funding instrument for projects in the public space on a smaller scale, the Hamburg Cultural Foundation and HafenCity Hamburg GmbH (later strengthened by the Körber Foundation) established the co-operation venture Kunst und Kultur in der HafenCity in 2005. By 2012 it had supported and funded a total of 24 projects. As part of this venture, an initial curatorial approach was successfully tried and tested in 2010, i.e. the incorporation of the Hamburg Deichtorhallen, the Kunstverein and the Kampnagel Internationale Kulturfabrik with the curatorial elaboration of three commissioned works (Global Design by Christian von Borries, The Bronze House by Dejanoff, and Ein neues Produkt by Harun Farocki).

The long-term objective of appointing a dedicated curator was subsequently restated and fleshed out, specifically as part of a 2013 workshop attended by, among others, the Hamburg Culture Senator Dr Barbara Kisseler, Prof. Dr Gesa Ziemer (HafenCity University Hamburg HCU) and Amelie Deuflhard (Kampnagel). The basic idea borne by a broad consensus was to win over a renowned personality to help shape and strengthen HafenCity’s cultural identity.


Ellen Blumenstein

Florence Rist

Schwan Communications

Tim Kistenmacher

Timm Häneke


Florence Rist