Header image by Thies Ratzke.

This article is part of our GIGsoup in Hamburg series! Make sure to check Zoe Anderson’s page for more coverage!

Rising out of Hamburg’s HafenCity area is the extraordinary Elbphilharmonie, a swelling piece of architecture that houses two concert halls, a huge plaza for guests to look out over the city, and much more besides. The building is surrounded on three sides by water, and, much like the city itself, its design is a direct response to its placement. The main focal point of the Elbphilharmonie are the crashing waves that adorn its crown. The cascading 700-ton roof along with the rest of this unusual landmark was the brainchild of Swiss architectural firm, Herzog and de Meuron. Much like Hamburg’s musical past and present, the building balances its modern upper section atop a brick-clad storage warehouse from the mid 20th century, marrying two parts of the city’s history together harmoniously.

Around Germany, this graceful giant is known for elegant design, pulling in curious music-goers from at home and abroad. The project was originally supposed to be finished in 2010, but construction actually ended up taking until  2017, and ringing up at three times the cost. Approaching the Elbphilharmonie on foot, it’s really not hard to see why. A reflects perfectly off of her glassy surface, while cute, almost-humorous porthole windows seem to wink at the city that surrounds it. Ascending to the eighth floor, one arrives at the first plaza which is open to the public (whether or not you’re enjoying a show). Making your way up any one of the Elbphilharmonie’s shining wooden staircases, your mind can be tricked into thinking you’ve accidentally entered some sort of strange future wherein concert halls must be ready to withstand the rigours of space travel. Everything is whitewash and glass, clean and sleek, classic and modern intertwined.

Photo by Maxim Schultz

Further and further, up and up, until you reach the much-famed Grand Concert Hall. The 2,100 seats are arranged in a circle, rising up three floors. Each seat is, amazingly, never more than 30 metres away from the conductor, and was positioned to provide maximum acoustic quality. The design doesn’t seem to mimic the themes set out by the building’s exterior, but the room does feature the aesthetically unusual ‘White Skin’ gypsum fibre panelled-walls which are said to further-improve the richness of the sound. Along the far wall, there is a crosshatch pattern, that looks almost organic and seems like it might inflate with breath at any moment. Maybe the Elbphilomonie could be called the lungs of Hamburg; as it has certainly breathed new life into the city.

We had the privilege of seeing The National German Youth Orchestra fill up space with their music. Rising and swelling, a full orchestra really helped redefine this sonically-crafted space; the sound rich and full in this organic, musical spaceship.

Photo by Michael Zapt

Make sure to check out the rest of our #gigsoupinhamburg series!

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