Nearly Abandoned, But Now Finally Open: Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie Is a Modern Marvel

After ten long years, the massive Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg finally opened on January 11, 2017, and has hosted its first concerts.

Ten turbulent years have passed since the foundation stone for the huge concert hall was laid on April 2, 2007, during which cost overruns and other problems slowed its completion. In 2012, the construction even came to a complete standstill. Then in 2013, the project was completely renegotiated, with completion costs substantially increasing from the original estimate. The city didn’t obtain financial support from the German federal government when the costs exploded because, as Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz pronounced, “Hamburg is a city-state with a long, proud tradition — which forbids us from asking for money from the national government.”

Finally completed at a cost of 789 million euros ($833 million), the massive, modern Elbphilharmonie now dominates the Hamburg cityscape. The first season is already completely sold out. Tickets initially priced at 17 euros ($18) were resold and can now fetch over 200 euros ($212) on the black market. Due to extremely high demand, 19 more concerts have been added to the program. From August 9-13, the Elbphilharmonie offers a varied program — the “Elbphilharmonie Summer” -celebrating a different genre each week: world music, film scores, jazz and classical music. This is an integral part of the venue’s concept of hosting all kinds of ensembles, not just symphony orchestras.

The sound in a concert hall is only fully revealed once the audience fills its seats, as their clothes absorb sound waves. The acoustic engineer Yasuhisa Toyota, however, left nothing to chance. He built a 1:10 model of the Grand Hall and filled it with small dolls sitting in for the future concertgoers. When echo effects occurred, he made adjustments. The result? No matter where the guests are sitting, they all enjoy the same amazing sound quality as anyone else.

The NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra has been rehearsing in the Grand Hall of the Elbphilharmonie since last summer and is full of praise and enthusiasm about the sound, according to its conductor Lieben-Seutter.

And when the 2,100 visitors have taken their seats on any given evening, the Grand Hall will actually sit about two millimeters deeper, as it rests on a multitude of steel springs, each about 30 centimeters (one foot) long, designed to keep any sound or vibration from the nearby hotel, restaurant or harbor below outside.

This article was originally published by Deutsche Welle on and reprinted with kind permission by DW.