New concert hall is ’10 times over budget’

New concert hall is ’10 times over budget’


norman lebrecht

June 09, 2015

Hamburg is delivering a masterclass in how not to build a concert hall. The Elbphilharmonie was approved in 2007 at a cost of 77 million Euros ($87m). It is now running several years late at a projected cost of 789 million Euros ($887m).

Opening scheduled for January 2017.




  • Alexander Hall says:

    One of many lamentable instances of the German powerhouse economy failing to deliver, despite all the many trumpetings of its superiority. The new Berlin airport should also have opened several years ago and has been temporarily mothballed, with horrendous monthly costs for maintenance. Other countries please take note: Germans are no better than anybody else.

  • Sixtus says:

    And unfortunately a 10X cost overrun will not result in 10X better acoustics. From Googled pictures and sketches of the hall I see that it is not remotely shoebox-shaped. So its actual acoustical properties (as opposed to the acoustician’s modeling of them) will be unknown until right before the hall opens. I hope to be pleasantly surprised, but the history of non-shoebox halls is littered with acoustical failures. Perhaps the city fathers, in emulation of the Sydney Opera house, were hoping for a city-defining riverside apparition, as implied by the architects sketches. But photos of the building as it is now show its facade to be depressingly pedestrian.

    • Harry Kirschner says:

      Yasuhisa Toyota doesn’t know how to design concert halls? Learn something new every day.

      • Peter says:

        That’s correct. His boss Nagata knew though, the man who designed Suntory and Disney halls. His pupil Toyota not so much. But he obviously must be good at something…

  • Alvaro Mendizabal says:

    Besides the incredibly insular comments above, its important to note that the Elbphilharmonie will have a Westin Hotel as well. Not everything in life is Music people, specially when music stopped making (real) money a long time ago. That being said, yes, Germany is not Utopia, but I would still live there over 90% of other places around.

    • Derek Castle says:

      A. Why is it insular to criticise a project which is costing 10 times the original estimate? (of taxpayers’ money, of course)

      B. I’m curious to know what are the other 10% of countries you would prefer to live in before Germany.

      • Alvaro Mendizabal says:

        1) They only focused on the project for its musical value, not its economic value to other – non musician stakeholders (I hear there will also be a business center and a shopping mall in the place).

        2) Its a basic logic mistake to state that because I’d rather NOT live in 90% of countries, I think 10% are better than Germany. Having said that, Latin America – if done right – can be an incredible place. There’s a reason the happiest people in the planet live there. There’s also scandinavia, with good economies (but frigid coldness), and/or if you are a member of FIFA, Switzerland ;).

        The exacerbating costs are a scandal, but lets look at it through a more comprehensive prism, not just the musical aspect of this project.

  • John Borstlap says:

    A chapter ‘How not to build a concert hall’, where architectural aesthetics is linked to modernism in music, can be found in ‘The Classical Revolution’, Scarecrow Press NY 2013.

    • Anne says:

      Amazon £34.95.

      How much just for one?

    • William Safford says:

      OTOH, here is an example of a hall that integrates 21st century technology and accommodation for modern and modernist music with excellent old-fashioned acoustics:

      N.B. It was expensive.

      • Olassus says:


      • John Borstlap says:

        On the look of it, this seems indeed perfectly suited to modern / modernist music, even if the acoustics were dreadful, which would not make much difference.

        An example of a concert hall which took the traditional shoebox as a model, and which seems to have both good acoustics AND the capacity to create a musical atmosphere:

        Architects of concert halls that look like the inside of a Star Trek set seem to forget that one of the functions (!) of a concert hall is to create – through visual means – an atmosphere, detached from everyday life, so that audiences, for an evening, can forget the trivialities of life and be inspired by the art form. A flying saucer (Philharmonie Paris) does not quite produce such aura.