UNESCO World Heritage
Built between 1922 and 1924 by Fritz Höger, the Chilehaus building is regarded as one of the finest examples of expressionist architecture and features in every major reference work on 20th century architecture.
It owes its significance both to the characteristic detailing of its brick façades and to its distinctive shape – the way it spans Fischertwiete street, its S-shaped curving façade on the Meßberg side and, most of all, its eastern tip, which resembles a ship’s prow. More information about the Chilehaus World Heritage Site is available here.
Höger developed an innovative and highly modern structure for Chilehaus by exploiting the possibilities offered by reinforced concrete and combining them with traditional brickwork. With his exceptional design and craftsmanship skills, he used brick to create a modern office building architecture that was without precedent either nationally or internationally.
For the artistic design of the façades, Höger utilised the pronounced mirroring and reflective effect of the irregularly fired clinker bricks, as well as the closely spaced pillars dictated by the interior floor plan. Inside, the structure of the building offered a flexible layout, a vital requirement for a modern, rented office building, enabling it to be adapted to the needs of the different users. When viewed at an angle, the narrow spacing of the pillars gives the impression of a smooth, seemingly windowless expanse of wall, which enhances the monumental feel of the building. The brick piers protruding from the façade at a 45-degree angle create their own rhythm through the rotation of every seventh course of bricks, allowing a diagonal pattern to be seen on the wall when the façade is observed at an angle close up.
In addition to its artistic wall design, the building is notable for the ceramic façade decorations by sculptor Richard Kuöhl, who also created the terracotta elements in the grand entrance areas and staircases.
Text: Dr. Agnes Seemann, World Heritage Project Manager, Hamburg Monument Conservation Agency