Business Traveller (Middle East) - - Spotlight on... -

riv­ing past Gothic brick ware­houses and over iron truss bridges, our car weaves through traf­fic to­wards the site of Ham­burg’s new Elbphil­har­monie. It has been a few weeks since the soft launch of the 860 mil­lion con­cert hall and there’s a tan­gi­ble sense of ex­cite­ment from our guide when­ever its name crops up in con­ver­sa­tion.“We’ve waited a long time for this,” he says.

As we turn a cor­ner, the crys­talline fortress comes into view. Tow­er­ing over the city’s dock­lands, it is a vi­sion of un­du­lat­ing, re­flec­tive panes, the cur­va­ture of which mir­ror the move­ment of a ship’s sails, beat­ing above a wedge of red brick be­low. Sun­light glints off the façade’s con­cave pan­els – a glit­ter­ing bea­con on Ham­burg’s hori­zon.

Strik­ing though it is, the project has had its share of con­tro­ver­sies since it was first com­mis­sioned in the early 2000s. Tom Schulz, spokesman for the Elbphil­har­monie, says things started well when prop­erty de­vel­oper Alexan­der Gérard ap­proached old school friends Her­zog and De Meu­ron, ar­chi­tects of Bei­jing’s “Bird’s Nest” stadium and the new Tate Mod­ern, to de­sign a land­mark on the banks of the River Elbe.

“The wave-like sil­hou­ette was such a hit with the city au­thor­ity that it took over the project from Gérard, and the task of fund­ing it,” he says. At that point, the to­tal cost was es­ti­mated at 77 mil­lion.

A slew of chal­lenges soon fol­lowed. Con­struc­tion Elbphil­har­monie in­te­rior Be­low: out­door din­ing in Hafencity paused for over a year while the city launched a law­suit against its con­trac­tor for grossly un­der­es­ti­mat­ing costs. Un­sur­pris­ingly, rev­e­la­tions of a 300 toi­let brush and 1,000 paper towel dis­penser for the lava­to­ries weren’t well re­ceived.

Un­der new man­age­ment, the con­struc­tion com­pany thrashed out a new con­tract with the city. Seven years over­due and ten times over bud­get, the Elbphil­har­monie opened of­fi­cially last month. The public mood is now soar­ing, and hopes are pinned on the per­for­mance space redefin­ing the city as a cul­tural cen­tre.

In­side, the build­ing is split into three, with lux­ury apart­ments and the four-star Westin Ham­burg cush­ion­ing three con­cert venues at its cen­tre. The


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