IBA is far more than an exhibition in the conventional sense. It’s more like a laboratory, one that consumes an entire district of the city and leaves behind a built space. IBA Hamburg 2013 focuses on the Elbe islands, a group of relatively contiguous islands between HafenCity to the north and Harburg to the south, an area of 35 square kilometers. Through November 2013, visitors will be able see more than 60 structural, social, economic and cultural projects that present innovative and sustainable solutions for the city of tomorrow.

Backed by the Hamburg Ministry of Urban Development and Environment as well as 40 private investors, the expo offers a daily program of guided tours, exhibition viewings, and expert conferences and congresses.

Energieberg - November 2012 - by Aufwind-Luftbilder
Energieberg – November 2012 – by Aufwind-Luftbilder

The different projects at IBA are divided into three core topics, each discussing different themes of urban development. “Cosmopolis–City of Variety” presents the potential for social innovation in a melting-pot metropolis, where people of different origins and cultures live together. Art interventions and concerts in unusual locations, workshops and leisure activities primarily populate this category.

“Metrozones–Building a New City in the City” shows how central but frequently neglected areas can be reconnected and revitalized. One of the projects in this category, The Building Exhibition within the Building Exhibition became home to around 130 apartments covering an area almost as large as six football fields. Additionally, concepts exploring hybrid houses, homes built with ‘smart’ materials, and cost-effective, inner-city building are included in this category–setting an example for the standards of tomorrow and making architectural history.

Energy Bunker - by IBA Hamburg GmbH / bloomimages
Energy Bunker – by IBA Hamburg GmbH / bloomimages

The third topic, “Cities and Climate Change”, shows how the Renewable Wilhelmsburg Climate Protection Concept is to foster a gradual energy changeover, eventually supplying the Elbe islands with energy from completely renewable sources. As part of this plan, an old flak bunker was restored and transformed into a monumental energy bunker featuring solar shells and an innovative heat storage system.

As an added perk for nature lovers, the igs 2013 (International Garden Show) taking place simultaneously will redefine the idea of a municipal park. Here, tours will be given of a former landfill transformed into an ‘energy landscape’.

4th night of knowledge in Hamburg at the IBA Dock - by IBA Hamburg GmbH / Bente Stachowske
4th night of knowledge in Hamburg at the IBA Dock – by IBA Hamburg GmbH / Bente Stachowske

For the opening of the 2013 presentation year, British artist Anthony McCall, working with Hamburg Deichtorhallen, will set up a light installation reimagining the “Leap across the Elbe”: three searchlights projecting slender white beams towards one another from three different locations.

If you can’t make it to the opening weekend, you can still visit IBA Hamburg until November 3, 2013 – check their website for a listing of special events and projects.

Headerimage: Smart Material Houses: Soft House – by IBA Hamburg GmbH / Kennedy & Violich Architecture, Boston