Herzog & de Meuron’s super inflated Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg may mark the end of the era of heroic public projects, but it does so in glorious style.
The Elbphilharmonie is almost certainly the – albeit much grander – apotheosis of Sharon’s aural and formal strategy, the gigantic last wave of grand project architecture in Hamburg, and possibly in Berlin and Stuttgart, where massive airport and transport hub projects have gone into fantastically expensive meltdown.
The recently bodged carapace of Jean Nouvel’s Philharmonie de Paris suggest that even France may have lost the ability to deliver heroic public projects successfully.
It has been said repeatedly by the German media, by architectural commentators and by Herzog himself the the delays in the project, which began in 2003, were to do with miscalculated costs and contractual vagaries.
At an early stage, a ludicrously trivial figure of 77mill Euros was bruited. The cost was then revised upward to 241mill Euros and finally to 789million.
But this cost, release at an early stage, could have provoked a public rebellion in a famously democratic city that is the birthplace of Mendelssohn and Brahms, with a Staatsoper that dates from 1678.
The design the building and its vibe are the products of logically developed spatial and atmospheric strategies, in concert with a pursuit of exceptional material qualities.
The latter – especially the glazing and the ‘tuning fork’ fibreglass balcony apertures – express traces of Herzog & de Meuron’s design genetics: the 600 48mm thick concave and excite bulges of glass in the Elbphilharmonie’s facades recall both the twisted, light admitting copper strips on the surface of the practice’s 1994 fuck off Signal Box in Basel, and the bulging glass panels of the equally fuck off 2003 Prada building in Tokyo.
Having gained a 20th century architectural masterpiece, Hamburg now has a 21st century gem.