The new concert hall whose fluid, wave-like roof rises up to 110m high, lies directly on the banks of Elbe river, surrounded on three sides by water, in Hamburg, Germany. The newly designed glass structure rises up from the existing 60s rugged brick warehouse like a wave of glass, containing three world-class concert halls, as well as a hotel and 45 private apartments.
The external shell of the Elbphilharmonie’s glass structure is composed of around 1,100 glass elements that are variously cambered and curved and individually marked. Τhe façade thus becomes a constantly changing projection surface, reflecting its surroundings and the different weather conditions.
A slightly curved escalator approximately 80 metres long leads to the roof of the former warehouse where the Plaza, a public viewing area offers a 360° view of the city. From the Plaza visitors arrive at the foyers of the new Philharmonie. These, too, offer exciting views - both onto the upper and lower foyer levels as well as out over the city, the Elbe and the port.
At 50 metres high and with 2,100 seats the Grand Concert Hall is the true centrepiece of the Elbphilharmonie. The basic concept of a space in which the musicians sit at the heart of the audience is a consistently recurring theme here. Following the Weinberg architecture concept, the orchestra is placed in the middle of the hall, while the seats rise in a steep incline to encircle it. The rows of seats extend virtually to the top of the room, almost forming part of the walls and ceiling. No member of the audience is seated more than 30 metres from the conductor. Despite the size of the hall, this means that everyone is seated unusually close to the music.
To ensure the perfect listening experience in the Grand Concert Hall the architects collaborated with star acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota in designing a special wall and ceiling structure specifically for the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg - the “White Skin”. 10,000 individually shaped gypsum fibre panels cut with millimetre precision reflect the sound, dispersing it in a calculated way. The reflector under the ceiling of the hall also ensures that the sound is optimally distributed. It is also the hall’s central light fitting, however - a chandelier, as it were - and conceals critical elements of the hall’s technical functions. Furthermore, in collaboration with the Johannes Klais Orgelbau company based in Bonn, the architects designed a bespoke organ especially for the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg. The organ’s 4,765 pipes are situated in, next to and behind the audience seats.
On the east side of the Elbphilharmonie is the Recital Hall, designed to seat up to 550 people. The wave-shaped wooden panelling here ensures perfect acoustics - the ideal venue for chamber music. The Recital Hall can, however, be used for all manner of different occasions. The third hall, Kaistudio 1, likewise underlines the broad spectrum of potential uses of the Elbphilharmonie’s facilities. Designed for around 150 visitors, Kaistudio 1 is part of the music education area with its seven different rooms.
Design by: Herzog & de Meuron
Photos by: Thies Raetzke (1-2), Jorg Modrow (3), Michael Zapf (4,5,7,15-17), Iwan Baan (8-12), Claudia Hoehne (13,14), Maxim Schulz (18)