The Hamburg’s policy, as part of the ‘Leap over the Elbe River’ strategy, is an example of the current direction of the city’s renewal, falling beyond classical revitalization. Improvement of quality and refinement of urban structures require an unconventional approach in the problem areas, both in the phase of setting the target standards and at the stage of solution implementation. The districts located in the fork of the Elbe river, Hamburg’s left-bank post-habor areas, were given the IBA (International Building Exhibition) Hamburg status in 2006-13. The area of Wilhelmsburg has become the place of implementing an innovative urban strategy, under the slogan of a renewable city, which has prepared the Island for a modern policy of compact city model development. The conclusions from the analysis of the renewal process that had been carried out within the framework of the IBA Hamburg, described in this article, have been summarized with regard to the Polish conditions represented by the example of the revitalization process in the Nowy Port district in Gdańsk.
The paper gives an evidence that construction of contemporary objects at the interface with the historic urban space, may be a way to renew and revitalize areas which require it. Such action may be a strong and valuable catalyst for the functional and visual transformation of a given fragment of urban space. It can also contribute to the increase of social activity within it. Research shows that public facilities from the turn of the 20th and 21st century, which were built using innovative architectural technologies and constructional solutions, are the buildings which provide great opportunities to contrast with historical architecture. This can be achieved due to their significant scale and rank in the urban space. The analyzes show that design based on the principle of contrast is the right solution for the degraded historic urban space. The replenishment of the old tissue should be carried out with the emphasis on the identity of the times in which we live, without creating architecture which could literally imitate historical objects or compete with them. Because of this contrast and diversity, new fragments of the city can become a counterweight or a valuable background to the existing historical tissue. Contemporary buildings located in a historical context are not only enhancing the values of cultural heritage but can also become a grateful element of the urban space and a strong accent of modernity and innovation in the city.