Construction has already begun on the Elbe Philharmonic Hall, an architectural masterpiece designed by Herzog & de Meuron. The building, located in Hamburg, will be comprised of two distinct parts: is a preexisting brick warehouse, and a ghostly, glass structure that floats above the warehouse.
The building will include two concert halls, a hotel, apartments, a large public plaza, a wellness area, a nightclub, and a parking facility. The hall constitutes the focal point and main attraction of HafenCity, Hamburg’s new metropolitan development project.
The Elbe Philharmonic Hall is an absolutely stunning creation. The contrast between the earthy brick of the warehouse and the soaring crystal of the structure above is incredible in its own right, but the space left between them creates a remarkable tension and gives the building an otherworldly feel. Jacques Herzog has said:
"A building is a building. It cannot be read like a book; it doesn't have any credits, subtitles or labels like picture in a gallery. In that sense, we are absolutely anti-representational. The strength of our buildings is the immediate, visceral impact they have on a visitor."
In this regard, Herzog & de Meuron have succeeded beyond measure. While it is too early to comment on the interior of the building, or its effectiveness as a functional and symbolic space, the Elbe Philharmonic Hall radiates jaw-dropping visual impact.
The reuse of an existing building saves energy and building materials, but also makes a broader point about the possibility of the incorporation of existing structures into beautiful and iconic new buildings. In the same way that the environmental movement has struggled to impress upon people the importance of reuse because of its huge advantages over simply buying or creating even highly efficient new things, architects need to pay more attention to existing structures and the cultural as well as environmental impacts that their incorporation can create. The Elbe Philharmonic Hall does a tremendous job serving as an example of this practice.
Through its iconic façade, otherworldly aura, and the subtle architectural allusion to the faeries and castles of Germanic folklore, the Elbe Philharmonic Hall seems to fit seamlessly into Hamburg, and serves as the undeniable beacon of HafenCity.
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