Herzog & de Meuron

Category: Cultural Institution
Location: Hamburg

Like a wave, or a ship, or a cloud borne in the beaks of birds, the great peak-roofed Elbphilharmonie, a stunning structure by Herzog & de Meuron that promises to boost Hamburg’s cultural profile, landed in the German city’s port in January. Built on top of a 1960s brick warehouse, the complex includes a main auditorium, two recital halls, a hotel, condominiums, and an expansive public plaza with 360-degree views over the city. The theatricality of the crested and dimpled glass exterior is matched by what’s inside: Visitors ascend on a slow, curving escalator into the belly of the building, a tangle of sinuous stairways and curved walls. The grottolike main hall is encased in 10,000 acoustical panels—each digitally formulated to make the sound at once rich and precise—that resemble snakeskin, albeit with concave scales. The result is that, even with the 2,100 seats, the audience feels a sense of intimacy with the performers: “There is literally no bad seat in the house,” says juror Elizabeth Diller. The project has its naysayers, who point to its seven-year delay and massive cost overruns (some $800 million over budget). But boosters retort, citing another once-derided, now-iconic cultural behemoth: the Sydney Opera House. elbphilharmonie.de

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