Hamburg’s New Jewel for Music Lovers: Herzog & de Meuron’s Elbphilharmonie Opens Doors

Hamburg's new Elbphilharmonie
(Photo by Maxim Schulz)

The German city of Hamburg is celebrating the inauguration of its latest and much anticipated cultural landmark this week: the new concert hall Elbphilharmonie. Designed by Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, the 110 meter structure on top of a historic warehouse in the Hamburg harbor will be opened to the public in an official ceremony from January 11 to January 12, 2017, including numerous concerts and festivities as well as a live broadcast of the opening event on YouTube.

There has been no lack of media coverage and accolades since the inauguration of the structure’s new “Plaza” viewing platform late last year, with rave reviews of the building’s architecture. Nonetheless, the Elbphilharmonie was one of the most controversially discussed public projects of the past decade, spurring national media debate time and again. In an extensive report on the shortcomings of public works projects in Germany, magazine Spiegel Online included the northern German concert hall in its top “disastrous” list in 2013, due to repeated delays in construction, miscommunication between the city of Hamburg, construction company Hochtief and the architects, and most of all exploding costs. When originally introduced in 2005, the concert hall was intended to open in 2010 with an estimated budget of €186 million (c. $196 million), of which the city of Hamburg, i.e. tax payers, were to cover €77 million (c. $81 million). Over the years the budget increased more than tenfold, finally reaching a staggering €865.65 million (c. $914 million), of which €789 million (c. $834) are now to be covered by the public sector—with the concert hall today featuring in numerous international rankings of “most expensive high-rises” around the globe.

While the Elbphilharmonie’s out-of-control budget has been all but forgotten, public attention is now shifting towards the building’s architecture and set-up, whose glamorous extras are finally being revealed. Next to a spacious “education area” the structure houses various restaurants and bars, a hotel, 45 prime location luxury apartments, and the aforementioned Plaza platform with spectacular views of the HafenCity, Europe’s largest inner-city urban development project, not far from the UNESCO listed Speicherstadt warehouse district. The main attractions, however, are the three state-of-the-art concert halls and most of all the 2,100 seat Grand Concert Hall with its terraced layout and a special wall- and roof construction designed in collaboration with Japanese acoustician Yashuhisa Toyota (who also worked on the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles) to ensure perfect sound distribution.

Music lovers will have the opportunity to test the new venue during a three week festival by the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, the resident orchestra of the Grand Hall under Principal Conductor Thomas Hengelbrock, starting with the grand opening concert on January 11, featuring, among other highlights, a brand-new commissioned work by German composer Wolfgang Rihm.

To find out more about the Elbphilharmonie’s Grand Opening Program, click here.

Click here for more information on the live stream of the opening concert.

Click on the Slideshow to see a photo tour of the new Elbphilharmonie and its various features.