Julius Benthin

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2023


This thesis aims to delve into the distinct intricacies of the HafenCity development as an urban mega project. Through three interconnected chapters, the thesis will explore the HafenCity's controversial genesis story, its alignment with aspirations to stimulate an (urban) renaissance, and its current and tangible impacts on the local scale. To navigate these complex dynamics, this study will draw upon a synthesis of relevant literature and apply it to the HafenCity case. Urban mega projects – particularly in the form of urban waterfront regeneration – are increasingly deployed on a global scale and have attracted considerable academic attention. However, largely confined to first-tier cities like London and New York, a comprehensive understanding of Hamburg's exceptional HafenCity case – regarding the city's long and deep history, prior first-tier status, high autonomy, mega scale, and social agenda – can make a relevant contribution to the understudied secondary city literature. Furthermore, adding to the HafenCity's distinct case are higher political dimensions (i.e., Hamburg's former mayor and now German chancellor Olaf Scholz), unprecedented stakeholder dynamics ("secret growth coalitions"), and Hamburg's unfavorable position in Germany's polycentric urban network. Lastly, this study's relevance derives from its potential to synthesize and stress-test existing theoretical perspectives, such as the global city and urban mega project lens or the American growth machine theory applied to a German case.