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