Elbphilharmonie: A Spectacular New Concert Hall in Hamburg

Jan 11, 2018 0 comments

Exactly one year ago, on January 11, 2017, a new concert hall opened in Hamburg, Germany. Like a ship on dry dock, the new glassy construction resembles a hoisted sail and is set upon a giant brick warehouse, surrounded on three sides by water of Hamburg’s historic harbor. Since the first public performance, the Elbphilharmonie has won accolades in cultural circles because of its iconic architecture as well as for its brilliant acoustics and sound clarity.

The old warehouse upon which the modern building sits was once the largest warehouse in the port and the only one at which ships could dock directly. The warehouse, called Kaiserspeicher, was built in 1875 but was destroyed in the Second World War. In 1963, the ruins were blown up and a new warehouse was constructed in its place. It was renamed Kaispeicher. Until the 1990s, the Kaispeicher was used to store cocoa, tobacco and tea.


Photo credit: Iwan Baan

With the rise of container traffic, Kaispeicher lost its importance and was eventually abandoned. In the early 2000s, the city of Hamburg undertook a multibillion-dollar redevelopment project of Hamburg’s harbor, converting 19th-century brick buildings and empty lots into residential, office and commercial space. The Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron were hired to design a new concert hall on top of the old Kaispeicher. After ten years of development and over 850 million Euros later, the Elbphilharmonie was officially opened.

The fa├žade of the Elbphilharmonie is made up of about a thousand curved glass windows. The roof is undulated, rising from the lower eastern end to its full height of 108 meters at the tip of the peninsula. A curved escalator from the main entrance at the east side connects the ground floor with an observation deck, the Plaza, at the 8th floor, the top of the brick section. The Plaza, which is accessible to the public without tickets, offers a sweeping view of Hamburg and the Elbe.

The Elbphilharmonie has three concert venues. The Great Concert Hall can accommodate 2,100 visitors whereby the performers are in the center of the hall surrounded by the audience in the vineyard style arrangement—a form that allows large audiences to feel closer to the performers, but acoustically more challenging to create. The acoustics were designed by the renowned acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota who installed about 10,000 individually microshaped drywall plates to disperse sound waves. Then, there is a Recital Hall intended for the performance of recitals, chamber music and jazz concerts; it can hold an audience of 550 people. In addition, there is the Kaistudio that allows for 170 visitors and is intended to serve educational activities.


Photo credit: Maxim Schulz


Photo credit: Maxim Schulz


Photo credit: Maxim Schulz


Photo credit: Iwan Baan


Photo credit: Iwan Baan


Photo credit: Iwan Baan


Photo credit: Iwan Baan


Photo credit: Maxim Schulz


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