Elbphilharmonie Project Cover
Ph.: © Cordelia Ewerth


Hamburg | Germany
Business Area
ArchitectHerzog & de Meuron
Co-ArchitectH+P Planungsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG
Co-ArchitectHochtief Solutions AG
Ph.: © Cordelia Ewerth
The Concept

The Elbe Philharmonic Concert Hall is one of the main cultural projects in the multifaceted strategy for urban renewal of the docks zone south of the old town. Built atop the former Kaispeicher A warehouse, the big new Herzog & de Meuron-designed auditorium is located on the tip of the Kaiserhöf, on a tongue of land enclosed between Sandtorhafen, the first modern-day port basin built between 1863 and 1866, and Grasbrookhafen Marina.


110 m / 361 ft

26 stories tall

With the Grand Hall, the four façades constitute the project’s most architecturally complex and engaging element. The envelope’s extreme complexity - combining irregular, semi-transparent façades with specially-developed technological solutions - constitutes a veritable milestone in curtain wall technology. Indeed, the design incorporates a variety of elements that make each façade unit more or less unique by leveraging a series of bespoke innovative systems: units with multiple textures and different protective layers; alternating, spherically-curved units; special loggias known as ‘turning forks’ integrated into the façade (some of these singularly-shaped elements are extra-large in size), not to mention the glazing for the loggias, the inclined glazing for the light wells, and massive wind deflectors. An external curtain wall covering a surface area equal to 21,800 sqm (234,700 sq ft) is an innovative, unique product, a truly bespoke development the like of which has never been made before.

Ph.: © Cordelia Ewerth
Ph.: © Cordelia Ewerth
Ph.: © Cordelia Ewerth
The Project
Scope of Work

21,800 sqm (234,700 sq ft) of complex geometry façades.

Ph.: Josef Gartner GmbH

Spherically curved units partial elevation and horizontal section.

Ph.: Josef Gartner GmbH

Spherically curved units partial vertical section.

An architectural envelope unique anywhere in the world

The main façade rises spectacularly between the ninth and twenty-sixth floor above Plaza level. The façade’s sinuousness and dynamism - the result of the way that the various components of the façade are put together to evoke sea waves and trigger an interplay of particularly engaging reflections - are particularly striking. Consisting of some 1,100 pre-fabricated units which cover a surface area of 16,000 sqm (172,200 sq ft) - larger than two football pitches - the glass curtain wall sits on a grid of standard unit modules of 4.30 x 3.35 m (14 x 11 ft) in dimension, and weighing ca. 1,500 kg (3,300 lb); extra-height units in modules of 5 x 3.35 m (16.4 x 11 ft) were installed predominantly in the central portions of the north and south façades. The units are made out of double-skin extra-clear, low iron oxide content safety glass: externally, laminated double glazing of 8 mm (5/16”) thickness each, plus an air gap with stainless steel spacers of 16 mm (5/8”); internally, laminated double glazing of 6 mm (1/4”) thickness, each of which was processed, treated and screen-printed in a special manner. To reduce solar input within the building and modulate the aesthetic effect that differentiates the units through the generation of a reflecting condensation effect, a variety of treatments were applied to the glass, breathing life into the façade and giving it a constantly-changing appearance: a double texture formed by reflective chrome-like dots and grey circular screen printing, a solar control coating, and a low-e layer.

The envelope’s second feature of utmost complexity concerned its spherically-curved glass units. Conceived to capture and reflect spectacular images of the water, the sky over the port and the urban docks, they also augment the relationship between the building’s interior and exterior. Six hundred of the 2,200 multifunctional glass panes used on the building are not flat; on the contrary, they feature complex spherical curvature that bends either towards the interior or exterior, inwards- or outwards-facing by 350 mm (13 3/4”) from the façade’s vertical plane.

The luxury private homes that run along the western, north-western and south-western sides of the building are equipped with special balconies that offer residents unforgettable views over the city, fostering the relationship between the inside and outside of the envelope. To find a solution capable of preserving the continuity of the curtain wall, despite its interruptions, over 100 special elements were manufactured for the loggias, on which fork-shaped balustrades conjure up the image of tuning forks. Made up of two glass panels, these special units feature outwards-jutting spherical curvature and an integrated fiberglass-reinforced polymer (FRP) profile to create prefabricated modules 5 m (16.4 ft) wide and 3.33 m (11 ft) high. Stainless steel brackets were laminated into the glass fiber in order to affix the outwardly curving elements to the façade elements; they are suspended at their top ends. 1,400 sqm (15,100 sq ft) of loggia façades comprising openable sliding doors, pivoted doors and curved glass units were also installed inside these special balcony elements on the room side, forming light and airy open spaces between the outer and inner façade. Another six extra-large 6.45 m (21.2 ft) wide and 5 m (16.4 ft) high tuning forks are reserved for the auditorium’s external balconies, in line with the Grand Hall, a unique concert hall with an extraordinary atmosphere and ‘vineyard-style’ seating.

The Elbphilharmonie’s giant crystal joins its base at the Plaza. Located at a height of 37 m (121 ft) and exposed directly to the strong winds and currents of the North Sea, the Plaza required special attention to ensure that visitors are sheltered from external agents. The former Kaispeicher A warehouse perimeter was surrounded by a system of glazing: a 2,100 sqm (22,605 sq. ft) stick system steel façade (mullion/transom system) created from special profiles. Along both longitudinal sides of the building at more or less the center of the Plaza, two monumental curved glass walls open up to reveal large façade cutouts overlooking the inner city and the harbor. Visitors can thus walk all the way around the Elbphilharmonie on the outer Plaza, taking advantage of the breathtaking 360° view. Twenty-eight panes covering an overall surface area of 400 sqm (4,300 sq ft) were developed, manufactured and installed for these unique access points.

The Philharmonie’s wave-shaped roof is made out of eight concave sections that form a series of peaks and valleys. In line with the apartments and hotel, a 6° and 15° partially-inclined stick system façade breaks this almost natural progression to create two light wells that penetrate into the spaces behind. Covering some 1,900 sqm (20,500 sq ft), operable sliding doors permit access to the panoramic terracing.

Ph.: Josef Gartner GmbH

Detail of section A-A’.

Ph.: Josef Gartner GmbH

Detail of section B-B’.

Technical Details
Ph.: © Cordelia Ewerth
Ph.: © Cordelia Ewerth
Elbphilharmonie spherically curved units detail
Ph.: © Cordelia Ewerth
Elbphilharmonie deflectors
Ph.: © Cordelia Ewerth
Ph.: © Cordelia Ewerth
Facts & Figures

2016 Completion
A Total Work of Art
Building usage: concert hall, hotel and residential apartments, public space
An impressive glass façade with complex elements
1,100 façade units unique anywhere in the world
2,200 panes of glass, of which around 600 spherically-curved
500 different designs using 200 different screens created for the dot screens
100 ‘Tuning Forks’, of which 6 are extra large
28 monumental wind deflectors

OWNER: Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg, Germany represented by Elbphilharmonie Hamburg Bau GmbH & Co. KG

CLIENT: Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg, Germany represented by ReGe Hamburg Projektrealisierungsgesellschaft GmbH, Hamburg

GENERAL DESIGNER: Joint Venture Planning Elbphilharmonie
Herzog & de Meuron GmbH, Hamburg;
H+P Planungsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG, Aachen;
Hochtief Solutions AG, Essen

CONTRACTOR: Hochtief Solutions AG, Essen

FAÇADE PLANNING: R+R Fuchs Ingenieurbüro für Fassadentechnik GmbH, Munich

Ph.: © Karin Jobst
Ph.: © Karin Jobst
The Making Of

To manage such a large number of different façade elements, each panel was mapped and equipped with an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip that, thanks to a specific ID number, could remotely identify each individual element. This system facilitated and sped up the transportation of units at a site that was particularly challenging, given its unique geographical position and space constraints. Traceability made it possible to accurately organize installation-related activities, as well as serving as a database of information on each panel’s specification. This same data will also be used for maintenance purposes.

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