Tuesday, June 16, 2009


At the edge of Hamburg’s Counting House District (“Kontorhausviertel”) is Zippelhaus, one of the last of the old-style Counting Houses (“Kontorhauser”) of Hamburg. Zippelhaus, seen on the right in the photograph above (with Saint-Katharinen-Kirche in the background), was built in 1890 and 1891.

Before the 20th Century, Hamburg’s Counting Houses were little more than modern variants of the old Merchant House, in widespread use since the 13th Century: a multi-story townhouse with shop/office space on the first floor or two, above which were several levels of living quarters.

Zippelhaus was one of the last of Hamburg’s old-style Counting Houses, modeled on the Merchant House and built to serve both commercial and residential purposes.

A few years after Zippelhaus was completed, the form and function of Counting Houses changed—they were to become the modern-day office building, pure and simple. After 1900, Counting Houses were built to serve purely commercial purposes, and were placed in purely commercial zones.

Zippelhaus is an unusual architectural mixture, borrowing features from the Renaissance and Baroque periods and refracting those features through the prism of the Hanseatic style.

As such, Zippelhaus reflects both architectural changes and social changes within The City Of Hamburg. Zippelhaus was one of the last buildings built in the Kontorhausviertel to use overt Renaissance and Baroque architectural elements, and one of the last buildings in the Kontorhausviertel to include residential living space. Only a few years after the completion of Zippelhaus, new zoning regulations prohibited construction of similar buildings in the Counting House District.

Zippelhaus survived World War II intact. Adjacent buildings were destroyed by bombs or fire—even nearby Saint-Katharinen-Kirche was leveled—but Zippelhaus suffered nothing more than smoke damage.

Zippelhaus now houses a first-class restaurant, also named Zippelhaus. It is one of the three or four finest restaurants in all of Germany. Its reputation is known all over Europe.

We did not eat at Zippelhaus.

We examined a menu posted near the front entrance of Zippelhaus, and we thought that the restaurant’s prices were too high.

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