Behind Unilever Hamburg’s Hybrid Office/Venue of the Future

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Unilever Hamburg Germany

The Unilever Hamburg headquarters overlooking the Elbe River is one of Germany’s most innovative office buildings, which was also designed to be used as a venue for visiting groups.

Unilever is the world’s third largest consumer goods company, with over 400 food and personal care brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Lipton and Dove.

Located in the HafenCity district of Hamburg—Europe’s largest urban redevelopment district—the Unilever structure has a clear structural skin separated from the building’s facade that provides both a striking architectural narrative and a mechanism to maintain indoor temperatures more evenly.

All of the offices on the six floors wrap around a huge atrium with natural light streaming though overhead and from each floor, because many of the offices have glass walls. None of the offices have doors, except the doctor’s and HR’s offices, and none of them have air-conditioning because it’s not needed due to the cooling pipes running through the building filled with cold seawater.

The ground floor consists of shops and restaurants serving Unilever products, including the outdoor ice cream shop on the shores of the Elbe, so the building attracts a steady stream of locals and visitors. It’s also available for private rental for groups up to 1,000 pax including use of the first floor atrium terrace.

The grass rooftop can also host events with amazing views overlooking HafenCity, with capacity for 200-pax receptions.

One of the most interesting design elements is the series of slightly sloping bridges that connect different floors on opposite sides of the building.

Here’s the cool part. At various times of the week, an executive will stand in the center of one of the bridges to address 600 members of the Unilever staff. So if you happen to be visiting down below, you can be part of the Unilever meetings. That sense of transparency and hybrid work/livability integration personifies the company mission.

“We are a very experiential company versus a closed shop, and you can experience the entire Unilever portfolio when you visit us here in Hamburg,” says Unilever spokesperson Konstantin Bark, who showed us around the building. “You can see everyone working all the time, and there are open spaces everywhere for informal meetings that help enhance creativity among the teams.”

Additional breakout spaces for 10 to 200 line the Unilever Hamburg building adjacent to the water, open to private groups after 6 pm during the week and all day on the weekends.

Bark says, “We also have a professional kitchen on the property because we are a food company, and companies like BMW will come here and do nice dinners and cooking demonstrations.”

Outside, there are hundreds of staff bikes parked by the entrance. You get the sense when you visit here that we could all learn a lot from the spirit of coworking and collaboration here at Unilever Hamburg.

“As a port city, sailors have arrived here from all over the world for centuries so there’s a very diverse culture and always a lot of foreigners,” explains Bark. “So because of that, Hamburg has always been considered a very progressive city.”

For more information about Hamburg, visit the Hamburg Convention Bureau.

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