'A concert hall that will wow the world' - Herzog & de Meuron's shimmering Elbphilharmonie opens at last

One of Europe’s most significant new cultural buildings will open to the public today (11 January), with a special concert for 1,000 lucky ticket winners.

The Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, by Swiss architecture studio Herzog & de Meuron, is formed of a shimmering glass covered volume – consisting of 1,100 individual panes – sat atop the original brick structure of an industrial warehouse on the city’s harbour-side.

The structure is home to a Westin Hotel, two small music venues and a 37m (121.4ft) high public plaza and observation deck, but the main draw is a new world-class concert hall which seats 2,100 spectators across its interwoven tiers.

The 12,500-tonne venue, which is housed in the heart of the glass volume, rests on 362 giant spring assemblies to decouple it from the rest of the building. It rises 50m (164 ft) and includes a vast organ built into the walls. To ensure acoustic excellence, 11,000 uniquely-textured sound-modulating gypsum panels, conceived with Japanese acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, have been painstakingly assembled.

Speaking late last year, city mayor Olaf Scholz said: “Hamburg is a city of music, and you could call this its parliament. It is a concert hall that will wow the world.”

Over the years of construction, the building has become a landmark on the Hamburg skyline, inspiring a wide range of merchandise in the city based on the silhouette of the instantly recognisable 7,000sq m (75,347sq ft) roof, which consists of eight spherical, concavely bent sections.

For the next two evenings, spectators who have won tickets in a random draw will get explore the building in full for the first time. They will hear the hall’s resident NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra and a selection of classical singers, including bass baritone Sir Bryn Terfel. Performances will spans across all musical eras, from the Renaissance to the present, culminating in a brand-new commissioned work, created especially for the occasion by German composer Wolfgang Rihm. A live stream of the concert can be viewed here.

Spectators will enter via the building’s elegantly curving elevator, which rises towards the elevated public plaza over the course of two minutes. The idea of the architects was to make sure there are no doors blocking people at any point from their journey from the outside of the building all the way into the concert hall.

“It’s a stunning experience to be in this building,” senior partner Ascan Mergenthaler told CLAD. “It’s like a little city. You literally flow into the building, and the outside world is part of that journey until the very last moment somehow.

Summarising the project, which took over a decade to complete, Mergenthaler said: “It’s very tough building. Timeless is a difficult word to use, but I think this won't go out of fashion, because it was never in fashion. It is what it is. It’s there in the unique location of the harbour and it fulfils this promise to be a house for everybody. That's the most amazing aspect for me.”

The cost of the project was reportedly €860m – over ten times the original budget of €77m, which the architects have conceded was never realistic given the scale of the project.

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One of Europe’s most significant new cultural buildings will open to the public today (11 January), with a special concert for 1,000 lucky ticket winners. The Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, by Swiss architecture studio Herzog & de Meuron, is formed of a shimmering glass covered volume – consisting of 1,100 individual panes – sat atop the original brick structure of an industrial warehouse on the city’s harbour-side. The structure is home to
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The building is a new landmark on the Hamburg harbour / Thies Raetzke
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