The Warburg Ensemble, a series of nine town houses from the 19th century and home of THE NEW INSTITUTE, tells a particularly complex story – one of aspiration and growth, one of a city ready to expand into its surrounding areas, and one of flourishing Jewish bourgeois life, tragically torn apart half a century later in fascist Germany.
It is a story that builds the bridge from a romantic revolutionary to a banker and politician. The address used to be Klopstockstraße, named after Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, a poet and pietist’s son who died in Hamburg in 1803. Today, the street refers to Max Moritz Warburg, who was born in Hamburg in 1867 and had to emigrate to the US in 1938 fleeing Nazi persecution. He died in 1946 in New York. His brother was the art historian Aby Warburg. The Warburg Institute in Hamburg and London are important institutions to this day. Klopstock and Warburg, two names cutting through centuries.
The neighborhood is called Harvestehude-Rotherbaum, originally located in front of the city’s gates, and is deeply connected to the specifics of the history of Hamburg. During the 19th century, the summer homes and garden houses that had been built in this area were gradually replaced by more and more stately mansions. The nearest city gate was the Dammtor, today one of the three major train stations of Hamburg, and once this gate was no longer closed during the night as of 1860, the settlement really took off.
A lot of Jewish citizens chose to build their houses in this suburb. It was the Gründerzeit, as it is called in German history, the time before and after foundation of the German Kaiserreich under the guidance of Otto von Bismarck in 1871. Wealth, power and a greater ambition all mix with the nascent bourgeois lifestyle of an aspiring middle-class to form this unique neighborhood of Hamburg which became part of the city in 1894.
The separate town houses comprising the Warburg Ensemble, stretching from Warburg Straße 8 to 22 and around the corner to Alsterterrasse 10a, were built between the end of the 1860s and the end of the 1870s. The buildings are set around a generous garden in the back, close to the Außenalster, Hamburg’s lake within the city, today a hub for after-work sailors and joggers.
The most prominent of the houses is the Haller Building at Warburgstraße 18, constructed after the plans of the well-known Hamburg architect Martin Haller in the early 1870s. It was of residential use, the first owner being William Henry O’Swald, a senator, trader and deputy mayor of the city. Other owners include Adolph Godeffroy, one of the founders of global shipping company Hapag.
After the war, this building as well as most of the others was put to different use – it became home to offices, diplomatic services, a dancing school and a book shop. The character of the area changed as the city changed and expanded anew, it became less residential and more and more administrative.
In a lot of ways, the restauration of the building will not only reestablish the place in its original form but also reconnect it with its original story, reclaiming the ambition of The New Institute: to establish a place that fosters imagination, that marries the intellectually intriguing with the aesthetically advanced. A place that invites visionary thinking.