Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg

The Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg’s masterpiece, shines as a new landmark in the city. Located at the western tip of the submerged HafenCity district, this extraordinary concert hall designed by Herzog & de Meuron symbolizes European architectural excellence.

“The whole project happened almost by accident. You can’t win something like this with a competition, and we might even be the last generation of architects to have had such an opportunity.

Sometimes we thought this building would destroy our careers. ”

An extraordinary architectural gesture

The building is spectacular enough that many invoke the so-called “Bilbao effect”. A reference to the Spanish city which has become a major tourist destination thanks to its Guggenheim designed by Frank Gehry. With its waterfront position and upbeat thrust, the Elbphilharmonie is also reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House. Another historic building criticized and derided during its construction for budget overruns and hazardous deadlines.

The buildings that surprise us are rare. The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Gothic cathedrals in France or certain buildings by Frank Gehry. And now the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie.

Designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the Elbphilharmonie sits majestically in a historic trapezoidal building in the midst of the waters of the Elbe, surrounding it on three sides. Built at the western end of HafenCity, it forms the link between the city and the third largest port in Europe.

The complex comprises three concert halls, in addition to a hotel, private apartments and a covered and elevated public square of over 4000 m2, surrounded by a terrace offering a 360-degree panorama of Hamburg.

The building was initially valued at 186 million euros and an opening scheduled for 2010. After a succession of delays, revisions and litigation, the city’s final bill came to 798 million euros, leading to debate political and public demonstrations.

Aesthetic and cultural sustainability

Solidity and lightness, permanence and transience. These are the antonyms that come to mind when one observes the nature of this architectural project where the ancient and the modern unite in absolute continuity.

The great hall has adopted a layout whereby the seats of the spectators surround the stage, gradually rising. As well as a special so-called white skin sound insulation, specially developed by Yasuhisa Toyota. This coating consists of 10,000 gypsum fiber boards weighing 12,500 tonnes. 3D milled, they are each shaped and oriented in a different way and then juxtaposed with such precision that the walls appear to be coated with a single white coat.

The Elbphilharmonie will go down in architectural history as an exceptional building. And “there is only one building on earth that can compare to the Elbphilharmonie in terms of urban presence: the Sydney Opera House.”

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