Düsseldorf's Medienhafen (Media Harbour) is a brilliant example of how a run-down neighbourhood can receive new life and be transformed into a thriving community that is also a must-see destination for visitors to the city.
The city's Rhine Harbour was traditionally a busy centre for industry and trade, until the departure of several key companies left areas looking a bit empty and neglected. To counter this, the eastern end of the harbour has been redeveloped and now features an assortment of outstanding postmodern buildings designed by renowned global architects. Indeed, the area has become a prime spot for architectural tourism, as visitors flock to see structures created by some of the world's top architects.
Alongside these new structures, many historic warehouse buildings have been renovated to become high-tech offices for cutting-edge media and design companies (hence the harbour's name), preserving the area's traditional industrial character while injecting a shot of hip new style. Nowadays Düsseldorf's Media Harbour is a trendy area with restaurants, bars, and offices that cater to over 8,000 workers.
For those interested in architecture, it's well worth a visit. The Radisson Blu Media Harbour Hotel, Düsseldorf – itself a rather striking V-shaped structure made of elegant glass and Brazilian slate - is conveniently located right at the heart of the district. You can easily head out the door and stroll the harbour's banks to admire the view, or take to the waves with a boat tour that will introduce you to its many architectural gems.
Here are just a few of the fascinating buildings not to miss:
Neuer Zollhof: The Gehry Buildings
Easily the most famous buildings in Düsseldorf Harbour, the three "twisted" Neuer Zollhof buildings were designed by award-winning architect Frank O. Gehry, who is known for similarly curving buildings such as the Dancing House in Prague and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. These three striking office buildings are at once completely different and perfectly in harmony: Neuer Zollhof 1 has a cheery brick façade; Neuer Zollhof 2 is all gleaming mirrors; and Neuer Zollhof 3 is a brilliant, blazing white. Yet all are united by that distinctive curved design, and their complementary placement relative to each other establishes them as a single architectural unit.
Haus vor dem Wind
The Haus vor dem Wind (House in Front of the Wind) is aptly named – its vast, curving glass façade does indeed look like a sail filled with wind, intriguingly giving the impression that the building is about to sail away into the harbour. The lucky occupants of this sleek, modern office building enjoy well-lit, spacious interiors with a similarly elegant design, as well as a terrace space on the roof with fantastic views overlooking the water.
At 240.5 metres tall, this concrete telecommunications tower dominates the district, and is also home to the largest decimal clock in the world, designed by architect Horst Baumann. You can visit the observation deck or cafeteria for a quick snack, or for those keen to appreciate the phenomenal views at length, treat yourself to a meal at the Gunnewig Rheinturm Restaurant Top 180 located at the 172.5 metre mark – it offers sophisticated fine dining in a fabulous setting, as the restaurant slowly revolves to make sure you can appreciate the scenery in all directions.
It's hard to miss this 62-metre, multi-coloured office building. Designed by architect William Allen Alsop, the 18 storeys of this stand-out building are covered in colourful panes of glass, creating an eclectic crayon-box effect guaranteed to cheer up even the dullest of days.
The Living Bridge
Linking the two sides of Düsseldorf Harbour, this impressive pedestrian bridge is at once a convenient transport link and a wonderful place for the harbour's workforce to gather and stretch their legs during breaks. Half-way along the bridge is a two-storey structure of metal and glass which houses Restaurant Lido, a stylish brasserie serving French-inspired cuisine – the perfect place to pause for refreshments and to savour the view.
House of Architects
An imposing glass-and-concrete wedge of a building, the Haus des Architekten is a suitably striking home for the Chamber of Architects North Rhine-Westphalia. Its nine storeys are centred on an interior atrium, which creates an airy, light-filled space that no doubt inspires its occupants to even more impressive creations.
Have you visited Düsseldorf's Media Harbour? Which building really caught your eye?