Headquarters Olympus

gmp, Hamburg

Photo: Marcus Bredt

Urban Building Block

  • Text: Olaf Bartels
  • Photos: Marcus Bredt

The European Headquarters of Olympus in Hamburg, built by gmp, strengthens the diverse usability of the surrounding urban district.

Heidenkampsweg is arguably one of Hamburg’s key traffic arteries. Like a canal, it accommodates traffic that flows out of the city, across the bridges that span the Elbe River, and onto the A1 Autobahn – and of course in the opposite direction. Here, cyclists and pedestrians search for openness and calm, which can be found behind the corner of a building, or in the streets that provide access to the main artery.

The eastern façade of the new Olympus Headquarters in Hamburg faces Heidenkampsweg at the corner of Wendenstraße. The district of Hammerbrook is currently in a state of transition. In the late 19th century, Hammerbrook evolved into a densified urban district with residences, shops, and production sites. Interspersed with canals, its character was typical of up-andcoming urban districts, not unlike Eimsbüttel in Hamburg or Kreuzberg in Berlin. During World War II, it was so intensively bombed that a postwar reconstruction was out of the question. Only a few prewar buildings survive today. Emerging here only during the 1970s and 1980s was “City Süd,” which served administrative purposes almost exclusively. Residential buildings were introduced more recently, heightening the district’s mix of uses. Regarding the ground floors in particular, however, the present arrangement leaves much to be desired – on Heidenkampsweg in particular. Still decisive despite the wide dissemination of navigation systems are views of the architecture from the car window – especially the district’s spectacular façades.

The new campus in Hamburg houses the European headquarters for Olympus as well as the new work company Design Offices.

Overall, the building introduces a new, compact urban component whose ground floor area displays a significant potential for becoming networked with the surrounding urban environment.

Ground floor
Plan: gmp Architekten

Paradox as signal
The building constructed for the Japanese photo electronics company Olympus has this kind of impact by virtue of a paradox: with regard to volume and form, it faces the street with a degree of restraint. The façade is structured as a uniform grid. The entrance is singled out by the strongly accentuated configuration of the corner facing Wendenstraße, and by the company name, illuminated in blue. The white tonality, unusual for the neighborhood, and the surface treatment of the reddish-brown clinker brick set the building off strikingly from the surroundings, dominated primarily by red brick and glass. The white engobed brick and uniformly colored joints give the building a velvety matte surface texture whose material will age naturally and sustainably. Here and there, the natural brick color shows through, underscoring the authenticity of the material, which also contrasts powerfully with the black windows.

The building’s main user alongside Olympus is the firm Design Offices, which offers co-working spaces. Both companies operate cafés that welcome the public despite being designed primarily to serve employees. Design Offices has positioned its bistro on the quiet side of the building, shifted away from Heidenkampsweg and facing Sachsenstraße, which runs parallel to it. Olympus offers coffee and cake to passersby as well – with access directly adjacent to the entrance, at least optically. In order to actually reach the café, users must pass through the main entrance, hence becoming immersed in the corporate design atmosphere, so psychologically suggestive of a professionalism. In other words: users who simply want to enjoy a coffee and pastry may feel out of place. Which means that the potential revitalization of the ground floor zones adjacent to the public street space has been achieved only to a limited degree.

With its rhythmic, Hanseatic brick façade the new campus contributes to the urban framework of the City Süd.

Those arriving for professional reasons can kill time by enjoying a range of culinary offerings. The entire entrance area, including the café, has been given white or pale textile colors. This is true as well for the direct access to the corporate zone, with its white restricted areas, set back somewhat within the spacious ground floor. Positioned between the staircases is a blue, shimmering glazed box. It contains a showroom for photo-optic products intended for medical use that are manufactured by Olympus and distributed in Hamburg, among other locations. Design Offices has its own entrance. For both companies, the architectural office gmp has provided the foundation for a versatile, flexible office landscape that integrates tranquil, self-contained areas with open, communicative ones, all of which are usable according to preference or specific requirements, having been honed further by interior design firms.

Overall, the building introduces a new, compact urban component whose ground floor area displays a significant potential for becoming networked with the surrounding urban environment. This is true as well for the subterranean levels, equipped with parking facilities that employ a flexible, mechanical automated parking system involving the highly efficient utilization of floor space, thereby freeing up street space otherwise used for parking cars. Of the 503 parking spaces, 46 are operated by the system of sliding platforms created by WÖHR. This aspect as well contributes to enhancing the versatile usability of this urban quarter.

Product Information
Parking Platform 503 tandem platform – altogether 28 parking spaces, 18 x Parking Platform 503 single platform – altogether 18 parking spaces, loadbearing capacity 2 t, platform width 217 cm, above floor drive, aluminum sheet covering, automobiles are shifted by means of floor rails


The architectural practice of von Gerkan, Marg and Partner (gmp)

was founded in Hamburg and has branches worldwide. With a generalist approach and over fifty years of experience, gmp implements projects on all continents in dialogue with clients and various planning disciplines, working on all scales and in diverse cultural contexts and covering all planning phases. Projects range from residential to highrise buildings, from stadiums to concert halls, from office buildings to bridges, from door handles to urban planning.

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