Rising more than 100 metres above Hamburg’s harbour like a great glass galleon marooned atop an old brick warehouse, the Elbphilharmonie concert hall
, The Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron have never looked so relieved.
The project began as the unlikely dream of Alexander Gérard, a private developer and former classmate of Herzog and De Meuron, who had hoped to finance the scheme with the 45 luxury flats and 250-room hotel that are also housed in the big glass mountain. He commissioned the architects to come up with a dazzling alternative to a dreary plan for a 90-metre media office tower on the site, which died away with the end of the dotcom boom. The Swiss starchitects’ thrilling images quickly caught the public imagination and the project was adopted by the city in 2003 and prioritised as a plan of national importance.
The grand hall, itself hung from the 700-tonne roof like a dangling cocoon, features 1,000 hand-blown glass lamps and 10,000 uniquely carved acoustic panels, while the facade incorporates 600 curved panes of 48mm-thick glass. It has been compared to Kaiser Wilhelm’s megalomania,
The escalator is gently curved in a hump-backed profile, so you can’t see where you’re going, adding to the camp drama of it all, before you emerge at a big picture window punched into the brick wall, affording the first great view across the harbour.
Hamburg’s completed ‘Elphie’ concert hall shines triumphant
Intricacy and complexity … the white ceilingOur role is to connect the old city with the new city beyond,” says De Mueron, referring to the HafenCity quarter, an emerging district slated to house 12,000 people in the former docklands, in which the “Elphie”, as locals have nicknamed the concert hall, stands as a shining beacon.