Just in: Architects are named for London’s new concert hall (that may never rise)

Just in: Architects are named for London’s new concert hall (that may never rise)


norman lebrecht

October 10, 2017

The New York firm of Diller Scofidio + Renfro has been picked from a shortlist of six to design a concert hall for Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra on the former Museum of London site.

Where’s the next half-billion coming from?

More here.



  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    There’s nothing more irritating than so called starchitects with no experience of theatre coming along and building an arts complex. Remember Eric Moss and the Mariinsky? If they don’t know how a concert hall works etc. then they waste a lot of money particularly if everything is drawn on computer and then when the builders come along it can’t be built without a lot of faffing around..

    • Moishe says:

      It’s probably about as irritating as anyone who doesn’t know anything about a given topic coming along and expressing an opinion. Lucky the wonderful Diller Scofidio + Renfro know a great deal more about the performing arts than you seem to about architecture. There could hardly be a better choice for this exciting, flagship project.

      • Elizabeth Owen says:

        If you read my original post you would see that I was not
        criticising this particular company just making the comment about architects who don’t realise what specialist needs arts centres have and believe me having worked in professional theatre for over thirty years I have experienced many jumps in budgets because architects have designed things on computer which were virtually unbuildable if there is such a word.

    • Robert King says:

      I’ve got no axe to grind either way but the portfolio for these architects (go to https://dsrny.com/ ) shows that they have significant experience in designing major arts buildings.

      Equally, the committee who’ve been interviewing the short-lists for this building – not just architects, but acousticians and other vital disciplines – are highly experienced users of concert halls, and are also extremely feet on the ground when it comes to the practicalities of such buildings. So maybe this might be one of those success stories in terms of design: for when people who know what concert halls really need drive the project, Britain produces world-class concert venues like Symphony Hall Birmingham, Sage Gateshead and so on.

  • herrera says:

    “Where’s the next half-billion coming from?”

    Ever since Brexit, Britain has been receiving £350M per week from the European Union that Britain has been spending on the National Health Service as well as making public housing high rise buildings fire proof.

    Just siphon a couple of weeks of that free money and voilà £700M for a nice little concert hall.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      How witty. But Brexit hasn’t actually taken place and even at the mots precocious estimate will not till 2019. Osborne was the great advocate of this project while in government but this is clearly not shared by May and Hammond. As for Corbyn, I doubt if he would admit that he had ever been to a classical concert in case it made him appear less cool.

  • Sean North says:

    Easy. Just get the Bank of England to print the money– that’s where all the rest of it comes from. Or issue 500 mil of 100-year “Concert Hall” bonds with a 2% coupon. They will be snapped up by pension funds.

  • Ben says:

    Why spend tens of millions of dollars to architect something inferior, when one could leverage existing blue prints from established halls such as Boston’s Symphony Hall or Concertgebouw?

    Oh …. whoever in charge needs to sweet-pot his/her golf buddies by hiring an architect to re-invent the wheel, except that wheel wouldn’t be perfectly round. It’s all by design, such that this architect’s golf buddies could in-turn ensure the project cost would be over-ran. Money for everyone at the golf club!!!!

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Wonderful idea.

    • Dave T says:

      Ben- It doesn’t work that way. You don’t take 100+ year old “blue prints” and scratch out the old name and tell someone, “build this”. But then, I guess you weren’t really serious about that suggestion.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Who will be the acoustician?

    • Anon says:

      That’s not important. Concert halls are for visual purposes only. Everybody knows that. The conductor has to be gratified about his visual presence in the hall first of all. Audience all around please, my ego needs that. That’s how it is since a certain Herbert had a new concert hall built around his podium. And everybody wants these days his ego tickled at least as much as Herbert wanted it. Music? Duh, at my service!

      (let it not be that Japanese charlatan, for music’s sake, please!!!)

  • Robert King says:

    The shortlisted candidates for acoustics have apparently been interviewed, so presumably we shouldn’t have to wait too long to hear who has been chosen. Informed sources indicate that the shortlist was a world-class line-up.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Forgive me for my ignorance, but how far can architect’s concept of a concert hall go before cooperating with an acoustician? This is more of a general question. I am not implying anything negative about this project.

      • Robert King says:

        It’s a forward-looking policy: separately invite tenders from the very best acousticians, architects, civil and structural engineers, building service engineers and theatre consultants for the needs of this building, and have their qualities assessed by a panel of people who spend their lives working in concert halls and arts centres and who know what such buildings need. The chosen parties will need to collaborate – and we can presume that a willingness to collaborate may have held some significance in the bidding process. The acoustics of the hall are going to be paramount to its success, and having the very best acoustician in there alongside the architect from the very start of the design process will be central. Looking at the names on the architectural appointments panel you can be pretty sure that the winning architects were selected as much for their positive attitude to acoustics as much as their experience, technical skill and artistic ability. (As a much smaller example of how starting with acoustics works well, I’ve just completed the build of a large new “live acoustic” orchestral recording studio, which began by selecting the acoustician, then adding architect, structural engineer, main contractor etc, all of whom were briefed to work with the acoustician – the result being a building which achieves everything it was meant to do). It will be very interesting to see who wins the acoustics contract for such a major new hall for London. Incidentally, the tender mentions an estimated 9.5 year duration through to RIBA stage 6.

        • Petros Linardos says:

          Thank you. I understand your explanation on how projects work, but can’t help wishing they were planned like your studio. In my mind, the Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Luzern is a brilliant Russel Johnson hall in a Jean Nouvel shell. Good luck with your studio!

          • Robert King says:

            Absolutely agreed re the KKL in Luzern – for me, it’s the finest modern concert hall anywhere in the world because its acoustic is fabulous (working alongside Russell Johnson was the brilliant Bob Essert); but then externally – well, with the mountains in the Gotthard rising at the far end of Lake Lucerne, can there be many more heart-warming views outside any other concert hall?

    • herrera says:

      At Avery Fisher Hall, the acoustician was not even notified when the board decided that the hall should have more seats (2400 to 2700), to match the number of seats at Carnegie Hall, so the architects redimensioned the the hall to accomodate 300 more seats…without consulting the acoustician.

      The rest is history. The Philharmonic got 300 more seats that it can’t fill half a century later, and the costs of trying to fix the original mistakes will have exceeded the original cost of building the hall.

      I fear the power and sway of a starchitect and an financially ambitious board…

  • John Borstlap says:

    It looks as if this new concert hall will be merely a new addition of some sort of modernist monstruosity amidst the other monstruosities – all in the entirely outdated and culturally-damaging perspective of postwar utopia:

    ‘The panel choosing the architect said DS+R had “visionary ideas” and would create a building “fit for the future that offers access and engagement for all.” ‘

    We know what ‘visionary ideas’ mean in starchitect speak. Does humanity learn from experience?

    ‘Humanity does not learn from experience’. Chinese philosopher To-Fu, 8th century AD.

    When classical music is performed in such halls, it clashes with the message of the architecture – something like playing Mozart on Mars. Classical music deserves a classical concert hall.

    • Craig says:

      We can’t all have a Concertgebouw in our backyard, John. Also remember that this is a centre for the arts, not just a hall. There are multiple ‘messages’ that need to be conveyed here.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Can one realistically expect a new full size classical concert hall in our days? I could be wrong, but the only example I can think of is Ozawa Hall in Tanglewood. To me it looks more of a classical than modern, but it is mid-size and over 20 years old. I’d be curious if you have an opinion of it. I love its acoustics.

    • Anon says:

      The main and simple problem is: a concert hall has to be conceived aurally primarily, with its sound first, in the design stage. The systemic failure is, to let visual designers (architects) have the lead. It’s a brainlessness that in most cases leads to conflict and bad acoustic designs.
      Ideally a concert hall should be designed by a master acoustician (not that Japanese charlatan) and then an architect should be consulted for making it visually and functionally happen.

      • John Borstlap says:

        The visual expression of the building is important too, because it has to create the atmosphere that relates to what is happening inside. This is: taking distance from the noisy world and creating a space where experiences of interiority can happen. THe visual style of the building is as functional as the acoustics, it seems to me.


        • Anon says:

          What you say is true until the music starts. Once the music begins, the visuals play a role, but only a minor one. The appearance of the building to the onlooker from outside, the inside leading up to the entry of the hall, all that is about what you say. When you are inside the visuals influence you as well. But not as much as the acoustics, as soon as the music starts.
          It’s just, that since our hearing is deeper connected to the subconscious on a neuronal level, that we are less aware of its importance and influence on our holistic impressions and connection to our environment.
          The importance of sound seems to be realized only by most, when something is very wrong with it or it suddenly is disturbed or muted. It’s a bit like gravity in that quality. It defines and shapes our experience of the real world immensely. But we are not aware of it most of the time. So what happens is that visual artists as creators and visual narcissists as customers have the pre in how such prestige buildings are designed.
          What suffers is our opportunity to experience music the best possible way socially, together with others.

  • Robert King says:

    Classical Music Magazine is today reporting that the selected design teams are:
    Architects: Diller Scofidio + Renfro (who will collaborate with UK-based Sheppard Robson);
    Acoustics: Nagata Acoustics (Walt Disney Concert Hall, Danish Radio Concert Hall, Mariinsky Concert Hall and Opera House, Elbphilharmonie, Philharmonie de Paris etc);
    Theatre consultant: Charcoalblue;
    Civil and structural engineer and building services engineers: BuroHappold;
    Cost consultant: AECOM.

    • Anon says:

      Oh dear, that Japanese charlatan. Good luck London with that. Too bad he is so good in selling his snake oil to gullible narcissistic conductors. More millions burned, more musical emotions killed in bad acoustics. (he didn’t design Paris btw. Only did minor consulting work for Nouvel there. And he also didn’t conceive the design of L.A. Nagata did that. He only overlooked the completion, after Nagata died.

  • Iain scott says:

    Did anybody notice that, in the opening paragraph, the LSO has now become Sir Simon Rattle’s LSO ?

  • SVM says:

    What concerns me is not the cost of the hall itself, but the likely cost of hiring and/or running it. Given its high profile and central-London location, I am in no doubt that the overwhelming majority of classical-music events would be priced out of it. The result would be a diet of limited LSO performances (only those with the really famous soloists, the rest having been relegated to Milton Court or even St Luke’s to save money), Raymond Gubbay (cf. Royal Albert Hall), some cheesy “crossover” (cf. the Southbank Centre), and lots of private commercial events (cf. Barbican Centre).

    If the project were to go ahead, I have two pleas for the architects:

    1. Please make the auditorium a Faraday cage, such that mobile telephones will have no signal whatsoever (this may have the undesirable consequence of causing people to get complacent about checking their mobile telephones are off, but so many people disregard that rule, and I am fed up of being distracted by people texting even after the house lights are down);

    2. Please do *not* provide wi-fi in the auditorium nor in the foyers immediately surrounding it, and design the building so that it would be impossible for wi-fi to be added at a later juncture.