Concert halls – Temples of art and cultural work place

Elbphilharmonie Hamburg HarbourConcert halls have to fulfil varying functions for audiences and musicians. Beginning in London in the late 17th century, cities with strong civic traditions such as Hamburg and Leipzig soon also erected purpose-built concert halls. Originally following a “shoe box” design, more recently architects and acoustical engineers have advocated other shapes. Acoustics are, of course, a central aspect for musicians when rating a concert hall.
Yet other aspects are important, too: historical and architectural flair, catering and, often mentioned, but frequently overlooked by architects, a spacious backstage that allows easy storage of and access to instruments. From the perspective of audiences, other aspects gain importance: of course, acoustics are fundamental again, but listeners also appreciate features such as smooth audience flows with short (or no) queues at doors, toilets or bars; seats that are easy to find and that also offer good views; or the setting of the concert hall with good accessibility or beautiful vistas.
Among new concert halls, the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg – still under construction – is certainly among the most ambitious. Christoph Lieben-Seutter, director of both, Elbphilharmonie and Laeiszhalle, Hamburg’s other concert hall, knows about their different profiles in terms of size, atmosphere and acoustics. Rather than creating competition, he is confident that they will complement each other. Given its protracted development, the Elbphilharmonie is a good example for the fact that concert halls – established, newly built, or planned – often court controversy. Other topic examples in Germany are the cities Bonn, Dresden, Saarbruecken, Bochum and Konstanz where concert hall plans face opposition for a number of reasons.
For example Stephan Braunfels, designated architect for the Saarbruecken project, knows the difficulties. But apart from financial and political questions, a concert hall architect also has to face other aspects, such as local style history and the combination of acoustic and visual experiences.

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