Hamburg’s hottest new urban space is much more than just a concert hall. Architects Herzog & de Meuron also made room for a hotel, restaurants, bars and 45 luxury apartments. The Elbphilharmonie announced to the world that it was fertig – German for ‘finished’ – in giant letters on its sparkling glass façade in October, 2016. After 10 years in the making and costs that spiralled to more than 10 times the original estimate, Hamburg’s newest cultural landmark and the world’s newest concert hall is finally open for business!
The Elbphilharmonie – or Elbe Philharmonic Hall – held its inaugural concert earlier this month, but we’ve waited for the dust from the media storm to settle to take a look at some of the building’s amazing architecture. The complex joins the historic brick Kaispeicher – a huge warehouse once used for storing cocoa beans – with an ultra-modern glass-covered structure on top.
Between Brick and Glass: The Plaza & Foyers
The escalator from the main entrance up towards the Plaza is no ordinary escalator. A cool curve means one end of the escalator can’t be seen from the other – instead visitors are immersed in the 82-metre-long Tube.
Once on the Plaza, visitors have fantastic 360° views over Hamburg and its harbour from 37 metres up. And anyone can stop by for the view and a drink, not just concert-goers and hotel guests.
Spacious staircases lead to the concert hall foyers from the Plaza. The stairways offer more amazing cityscape views and create light effects over several floors.
The Grand Hall, its White Skin & The Reflector
The heart of the Elbphilharmonie is the Grand Hall. 2,100 seats surround the orchestra on all sides in a ‘vineyard’ style.
Perfect sound reaches every listener in every corner of the Grand Hall thanks to the precision-built ‘white skin’ – 10,000 gypsum fibre panels containing around a million cells. The white skin walls work together with the giant reflector in the middle of the pointed ceiling.
One of the world’s top acoustic experts Yasuhisa Toyota worked on the concept. Toyota knows it’s a job well-done when the audience no longer notices the distance to the orchestra.
Music Halls 2 and 3: Recital Hall & Kaistudio1
The second music venue – the Recital Hall – has room for up to 550 jazz or chamber music fans. The classic ‘shoebox’ hall is covered in elegant milled wood panelling for perfect acoustics.
Old cargo hatches have been converted into balconies downstairs in the Kaispeicher warehouse. The warehouse building is now home to the Elbphilharmonie’s third music hall – Kaistudio1. Six other studios make room for music workshops and the interactive World of Instruments – making the Elbphilharmonie an exciting urban space where everyone gets a chance to give music a try.
The Glass Façade
1,100 panes of glass make up the Elbphilharmonie’s defining feature – its dazzling façade. The huge glass panels reflect the water, cityscape and sky to give an ever-changing crystal effect.
The curved window panels are covered in small reflective dots, giving the façade a shimmering effect while also making sure the structure doesn’t overheat in the sun. It can also easily withstand any extreme weather Hamburg might throw at it.
Our visit to Hamburg’s hottest new property ends on the roof. Steep curves and peaks give the Elbphilharmonie its landmark wave-like silhouette.
The roof is covered in 6,000 giant sequins, with space for a rooftop terrace inbetween. At its highest point, the roof peaks at a dizzying 108 metres above Hamburg’s newly buzzing HafenCity district.
Pictures courtesy of elbphilharmonie.de: Featured image by Thies Rätzke; ‘Fertig’, Grand Hall by Iwan Bann; Tube, Plaza, Foyer, Grand Hall Reflector, Recital Hall by Michael Zapf; White Skin by Oliver Heissner; Elbphilharmonie with harbour by Maxim Schulz