Elbphilharmonie Hamburg: a glass structure supported by a brick warehouse

The new concert building in Hamburg (DE), the Elbphilharmonie, is quite a sight to behold. Standing at the shore of the river Elbe, it is surrounded on three sides by water. The new curved roof, made from glass, reaches 110 metres into the sky, and is supported by a former warehouse made from coarse bricks.

The Kaispeicher A is the colossal brick warehouse that supports the new part made of glass. The warehouse was built in de early 60s, designed by architect Werner Kallmorgen, and served as storage for tea, cacao and tobacco.

The outside of the new part, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, consists of 1,100 glass elements, which are curved each in a different way and printed individually. Depending on the angle, they mirror the water of the Elbe, the sky or and the town.

The way inside leads through a 80 metre long, slightly curved escalator through a tube, of which the rounded walls are covered in many glass sequins. The escalator ends at a panorama window that shows a view to the harbour.

The main hall of the Elbphilharmonie is the large concert hall, at a height of 50 metres, and has about 2,100 seats. These seats surround the orchestra that is placed in the middle of the hall.

To ensure the best acoustics, the architects along with Yasuhisa Toyota developed a special wall and ceiling structure, the so-called white skin. 10,000 plasterboard panels were milled into shape to millimetre accuracy, to divide the sound properly, with the help of a reflector beneath the ceiling.

On the east side of the building lies the Small Hall for a maximum of 550 people. The walls in this room are covered by waved wooden panelling, to give it optimal acoustics.

Photos: Thies Rätzke (exterior) / Oliver Heisser (white skin) / Michael Zapf (grand hall)