Thursday, June 4, 2009


One of the most interesting buildings in Hamburg’s Kontorhausviertel is Afrika-Haus.

Afrika-Haus was built in 1899 to a design by Martin Haller, architect of Hamburg’s Laeiszhalle and HAPAG-Lloyd headquarters. The building was commissioned by the Woermann Trading Company, a firm that made a fortune in African trade during Germany’s brief colonial period. Afrika-Haus is still used by the Woermann firm as its headquarters.

The street façade shows a marked Jugendstil influence, which I believe is rare in Haller’s work. At the very least, I do not recall any Jugendstil influences upon other Haller buildings in Hamburg.

The Woermann flag is depicted on the ceramic tiles on the building’s street façade.

The street entrance features a statue of an African warrior.

Through the street entrance, the visitor enters a large courtyard, at the other end of which lies the main entrance to the building proper. Two giant bronze elephants greet visitors at the entrance.

We went into Afrika-Haus and walked around, primarily because we had been told that interesting company mementos lined the stairwells.

We found this to be true.

Of most interest to us were historic photographs of the many company ships that Woermann used on its Hamburg-Africa route. Photographs of the ships lined the stairwells of Afrika-Haus from the first to the top floor.

We spent an hour examining the old photographs, and no one at Woermann seemed to mind our presence in the least.

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