© Oliver Heissner
Hamburg is building its musical future: The Elbphilharmonie. Even from afar, one can behold the shining glass wave soaring over the harbour – superior architecture that will shape the image of Hamburg internationally.
The Elbphilharmonie not only serves as a beckoning lighthouse for the new HafenCity, but also for Music City Hamburg. The heart of the Elbphilharmonie is the Grand Hall, with a seating capacity of 2,150; it will belong to the finest of its kind. However, the Elbphilharmonie is more than simply a concert house. The Plaza, at a height of 37 meters and which is also accessible to the general public, reveals a spectacular view of the harbour, the city and the people: a house for Hamburg and its citizens. The design, which stems from the architects Herzog & de Meuron, includes a hotel and 45 residential flats. Only here is the Elbphilharmonie conceivable: along vibrating current of the River Elbe, at the converging place where the city meets the harbour. The Elbphilharmonie will be a unifying work of art: an exceptional experience of architecture, music and the direct proximity to the water.
The Elbphilharmonie is created where Hamburg’s heart beats: at the harbour. Here is the pulsating life; here the economic vein meets the spirit of the city; here Hamburg’s gates open themselves up to the world. The Elbphilharmonie, built at the tip of the Sandtorhafen and a stone’s throw away from the HafenCity, will shine out faraway.
The structure subsists on contrast: The foundation is formed from the historical warehouse, Kaispeicher A. The semi gantry cranes are witnesses to the sacks of tea and cocoa, which up until the 1990s were stored here. Above this solid massive base, the undulating crystalline new edifice of the architects Herzog & de Meuron floats. These are the same architects who designed the Olympic stadium in Peking and the Tate Modern in London. The glass façade of the Elbphilharmonie alone is breathtaking . Over an 82 meter long, ingeniously curved escalator, one reaches the Plaza on top of the roof of the former warehouse, which is always accessible to the general public. Here, at a height of 37 meters, visitors are presented an impressive panorama view of the city, and at the same time, the open-work structure and galleries afford an extraordinary spatial perspective. The ticket office as well as the hotel lobby entrance and the escalator to the Grand Hall are located in the Plaza. Guests are invited to spend time in the restaurants and bars which are nearby.
The heart of the Elbphilharmonie is the Grand Hall , which rests upon enormous steel springs at the center of the building – The entire hall is acoustically isolated from the rest of the building. Even the blaring ship’s horn of the Queen Mary 2 cannot disturb a concert. The hall follows the »vineyard principle«, in which seat are arranged and rise up around the orchestra placed in the center. This construct is similar to the Berliner Philharmonie. The task of devising the optimum acoustic was placed in the hands (and ears) of the internationally renowned acoustics specialist Yasuhisa Toyota.
Besides the Grand Hall, there is the smaller Recital Hall with a seating capacity of about 550, which is exactly like the traditional Laeiszhalle. Although it is exceptionally suitable for chamber music, the hall also can accommodate balls and banquets. The Kaistudio, situated in foundation construction, has seating for 150: excellent for experimental music. The red-brick warehouse foundation houses the Klingende Museum, the rehearsal rooms and an underground garage with over 500 parking spaces.
Almost the entire wide building front that faces the HafenCity will accommodate a hotel with around 250 rooms and its grand entrance hall. On the opposite side of the building, in its sharply angular edge, 45 residential flats will be built.
As charming as this unique site on the waterfront is, it introduced a demanding challenge for city and traffic planners. Motor vehicles must use the Mahatma-Gandhi-Bridge to reach the Elbphilharmonie. Even though the walking distance from the closest metro station, Baumwall (U3) is not much longer than that from Stephansplatz to the Laeiszhalle, the path of the station Überseequartier (U4) provides a wonderful view of the water along the newly redesigned waterfront promenade. Furthermore, public city buses (HVV) are planned to stop directly in front of the Elbphilharmonie. Last but not least, the most stylish mode of transportation in Hamburg is to arrive by the public ferry 72 which terminates directly in front of the Elbphilharmonie.
From Hanseatic city to Music City – that is Hamburg’s ambitious aim, in which the Elbphilharmonie fills a central role. Hamburg can gaze back at its impressive musical history, from Telemann to Tocotronic, from Brahms to the Beatles, from Ligeti to Lindenberg. The Elbphilharmonie presents the latest and most spectacular contribution to Hamburg’s music tradition, while guiding the way into the future of music in Hamburg. One thing is certain: Hamburg’s music life is flourishing. Not only in the musical theatres and the fashionable clubs, but also in the Laeiszhalle: The Hamburger Orchester and other concert organisers provide an astonishingly diversified range of high-quality music offerings. All of which have taken the Laeiszhalle to the limits of its capacity. The venerable concert hall at the Johannes-Brahms-Platz simply has not enough room for further developments – in terms of both physical space and concert booking. With the Elbphilharmonie, literally new breadth will be created.
This demanding position is currently carried out by general director Christoph Lieben-Seutter, who previously held a similar position at the Konzerthaus in Vienna, his native home city. Starting in the 2009/2010 season, undeterred he brought the Elbphilharmonie Concerts to life – a lthough the building was still under construction. With original festivals focused on countries like Finland, Turkey, Israel and Iran as well as on instruments such as the accordion, along with chamber music, series featuring up and coming artists, jazz, electronic, old and new music, Hamburg demonstrates its first-class spectrum worthy of a Musical City. Notably, the music educational department, Elbphilharmonie Kompass, which dismantles initial reservations and exposes the music to a new segment of society that previously had not been reached. The Elbphilharmonie has already begun.
The Elbphilharmonie Hamburg is taking shape at the »magical« area between harbour and city. The spot at the tip of the Kaiser Quay is surrounded by water on three sides and connected to the Sandtor Quay via a bascule bridge.
The Kaiser Warehouse, one of Hamburg´s landmarks, stood at the position where the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg is now being built, until it was destroyed in 1945 during the Second World War.
The Kaispeicher Warehouse, built by Werner Kallmorgen, replaced the destroyed Kaiser Warehouse. At the time of its opening in 1966, it was one of the most modern warehouses of the time. Photo © Oliver Heissner
The first sketch of the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron reveals both the audacity and elegance of the project: a Philharmonic concert hall on top of a historic warehouse. Picture © Herzog & de Meuron