Friday, February 12, 2010

War of words over landmark construction

HAMBURG/CITYSCAPE IN CHANGE. Building a monumental landmark was never bound to be easy.
After what seems like a smooth process so far in realizing Europe’s biggest urban development project, there are now frequent reports on trouble surrounding the architectural masterpiece of Hamburg’s HafenCity.
The Elbphilarmonie concert hall is meant to rival Sydney’s Opera House and be the spectacular landmark of Hamburg’s new cityscape on the banks of the river Elbe. Doors were planned to be opened in May 2012, but reports in the German press in the past weeks talk of risks for delays and even higher costs.
Everybody is blaming each other, according to local newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt, and looking for a scapegoat.
In documents obtained by the newspaper, developer Hochtief says that the building will not be completed until late 2012, with a possible inauguration in May 2013. That would mean a one-year delay and further added costs to a project that already has seen its original budget of 114 million Euro almost tripled.
Hochtief claims that Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron have been late in delivering plans for the complicated construction of the concert hall on top of an old warehouse. Severe winter weather in Hamburg has added to the problems.
There has been no official confirmation of the delay and, as said, this would seem like almost a normal part of the process of building a landmark.
Whenever the Elbphilharmonie will be completed, it’s bound to be the new face of Hamburg as the city goes through a profound change with the development of HafenCity. This new part of Hamburg, built on derelict port and industrial land on the river Elbe, will add 40 percent area to the city center.
It was no easy venture architects Herzog & de Meuron set in motion with their plan to turn a 1960’s brick warehouse for cocoa, tea and tobacco into a state of the art concert hall in a unique architectonic hybrid. Herzog & de Meuron are of course no strangers to spectacular projects, with the National Stadium (“The Bird’s Nest”) built for Beijing’s Olympic Games in 2008 being the latest example.
The core of the old warehouse has been removed, but the reinforced outer brick walls remain intact. The lower part of the building will house a five-star hotel, apartments and a parking garage.
On top of this the concert hall is being built in what has been described as an extremely challenging project. Over 2,000 carefully designed glass plates form a huge façade that resembles the waves of the surrounding water. The façade has been tested to withstand hurricane winds and extreme rain.
A huge public plaza between the two parts of the building will give visitors an unmatched view of the city.
The concert hall itself is being built on a unique spring system, to make it “float” in the air as not to be affected by noise from the surrounding harbour.
Japanese acoustics expert Yasuhisa Toyota has development what is said to be perfect sound conditions for the two auditoriums, seating respectively 2,150 and 550 spectators.
In an ingenious small information center a few blocks from the construction site, visitors can stick their heads into a model of the main auditorium and see the works of Yasuhisa Toyota. On the outside you can get a taste of the music to come in the new concert hall, from horns attached to the walls of the building.
For the real thing, we might have to wait a while.

This is the second in a series of reports on HafenCity, the largest urban development project in Europe, in the German port city of Hamburg.

Copyright: Herzog & de Meuron/HafenCity Hamburg GmbH
Built on top of an old warehouse, the Elbphilarmonie will be a landmark.

Copyright: Herzog & de Meuron/HafenCity Hamburg GmbH
The auditorium will be constructed for perfect acoustics.

Copyright: Herzog & de Meuron/HafenCity Hamburg GmbH
The Elbphilarmonie concert hall is a complicated building project.

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