02 | 2020

How imagination becomes reality

Whether it’s a floor of office rooms, a hotel, a rooftop bar or a luxury apartment, future owners and tenants increasingly want to get actively involved in the creation of their new domicile’s individual design. HOCHTIEF even has a special department to serve them. Tenant fit-out is a link between owners and client, and between landlords and tenants.

Quite a bit of imagination is needed in order to look at the abandoned bomb shelters of a former barracks complex and envision the presentation and training area of a modern healthcare company. On a wall, between reinforced concrete and buckets of paint, hangs a weathered notice that warns people not to shut the entrance door “until bomb blasts can be heard.” However, these rooms will soon be part of their tenant’s future. The architectural concept for its renovation is already present in Corina Dehne’s imagination. Dehne, the team manager of the HOCHTIEF department for fit-out services, is currently working together with her colleagues to convert the former barracks complex in Hamburg’s Bahrenfeld district into a training center for a local medical technology company. And yes—this project really does require plenty of “fantasy and imagination,” she says.

More than 100 years ago, a Prussian regiment first performed its military duties in this complex. Now the last buildings in this red-brick district, which is known as QuBa for short, are being made fit for the future. That includes the cellar rooms of the World War II bunker, which are enclosed by meter-thick walls. Corina Dehne’s area of responsibility in the project is the tenant fit-out—a discipline that is still fairly new in the construction industry. In the past, the client and the commissioned company used to design the entire property together, from the footing to the stairwell and all the way to the roof, including the room layout and the building technology. Today, the future users often want to at least have the right to participate in these decisions about the fit-out of the spaces where they will live and work in the future. This is the area where the constantly growing team does its work. Four years ago, the architect Corina Dehne started to create a special department for this purpose at HOCHTIEF. 

During the design phase of a project, the members of her team already serve as an “advisory link between the owner and the client, and between the landlord and the tenant,” Dehne explains. In the case of the bomb shelter, she mediates between the Hamburg-based company Quantum Immobilien and the future tenant, a producer of medical technology, as well as between the interests of district preservation, the need for cost efficiency, and the limits of what is structurally feasible. She is certain that all the parties involved will ultimately be satisfied. Many reasons for her optimism can already be found in Hamburg and other cities in Germany. In recent years, HOCHTIEF’s tenant fit-out department has helped to complete a number of spectacular projects.

One example is the 15th floor of the Campus Tower in Hamburg’s newest district, HafenCity. There, 50 lofty meters above the Elbe River flowing below, the world-famous three-star chef Kevin Fehling has just opened his rooftop Puzzle Bar, not far from his own restaurant, The Table. Over tasteful cocktails and gourmet snacks, his guests can now enjoy the spectacular panorama of the harbor and the new urban district. There’s also a spectacular view when guests turn from the long terrace toward a similarly extensive bar: The interior architecture of the bar is unusual and unique, because it has been built in line with Fehling’s holistic vision.

“The tables and the counter are also part of a puzzle, and so are the drinks and the staff,” enthuses Dennis Ilies, who used to be the Sous Chef in Fehling’s visionary kitchen and is now the independent boss of the new bar. Many stylistic elements—the lighting, lines of vision, design, arrangement, and materials—were developed during the tenant fit-out process together with the new tenant’s interior architects. Partly thanks to advisory assistance from HOCHTIEF. “Kevin Fehling was always 100% sure of what he wanted,” says Corina Dehne about her cooperation with the maître. “However, as he’s the first to admit, he’s a chef, not an architect.” That’s why the HOCHTIEF crew always intervened wherever know-how was necessary, without patronizing the stylistically self-confident businessman and his team regarding aesthetic issues. That’s why the result of their work is not simply a compromise—it’s the outcome of constructive teamwork, from the initial design all the way down to the technical equipment.

Hamburg’s Elbe Philharmonic Hall can also be seen through the panorama windows of the Puzzle. Under the undulating roof of this legendary masterpiece from HOCHTIEF, Corina Dehne and three colleagues designed a total of 42 apartments according to the wishes of their future residents, which in some cases were very detailed. Back then she was not yet a salaried employee of the company—only “an architect lent out by my employer at the time,” as she puts it. But she was already a pioneer of this brand-new business line. And today her department’s portfolio offers a representative collection of future-oriented partnerships in the field of tenant fit-out.

The department’s customers range from the wind turbine builder Nordex to the medical pensions association Ärzteversorgung Niedersachen, Tallence AG, Garbe Immobilien-Projekte GmbH, the fruit company Chiquita, and the comparison portal Check 24. All of them have benefited from the assistance of the tenant fit-out department of HOCHTIEF in Hamburg. And all of them are making HOCHTIEF the pioneer of a business segment that will continue to grow in importance—in large part because this enables a construction company to achieve maximum closeness to its clients. 

At the QuBa project, where HOCHTIEF is initially responsible for the concepts for materials and technology, the customer is already very satisfied with the cooperationeven though it has barely begun. “So far, as far as ourselves and the future tenant are concerned, the cooperation has been pleasantly fast and effective,” says the Managing Director of Quantum Investment, Stephan Pientka, about his initial experience in the area of tenant fit-out with HOCHTIEF. As a result, it’s quite possible that further partnerships will follow this premiere.

Corina Dehne also has high praise for the project at the former barracks complex. “We are working together to develop the new concepts for the areas to be fit out,” she says concerning the external client. She’s looking forward to tackling challenges such as the complicated air conditioning concept. That brings her to the construction site several times a week—among other things, in order to assess the progress of the construction work on a project that has one thing above all: character. Dehne says it’s not easy to uphold this quality of “character” in line with today’s construction requirements, while still maintaining functionality—“but we’re working on it.” 

Fortunately, they no longer have to do so in the manner of the restored wartime poster on the freshly plastered wall: “You may leave the bomb shelter only if ordered to do so by the site’s air raid protection officer.” The age of everything on command is over, thank heaven. Today, it’s all about consensus—a basic principle of the tenant fit-out process.