Elbphilharmonie concert hall nears completion after a decade in the making

It is quite common for prestigious building projects to run over budget at some point in their development. But the Elbphilharmonie concert hall designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron is notorious for going over budget and over time in an extreme way. The building was supposed to be completed way back in 2010 with about a quarter of the cost of the now approx. 870$ million.

The project was born over a decade ago. The idea was to build a world-class concert hall with a 2,150-seat auditorium above an existing 1960s brick structure. Hamburg’s former mayor, Ole von Beust, has been given much of the blame for the botched timeline and cost overrun. The early estimate of 200$ million to build the extravagant concert hall quickly skyrocketed to a total of 870$ million. Accompanied with a lot of political turmoil the taxpayers ended up picking up the tab.

The city council of Hamburg undertook a two year investigation into the delays and spending. It turns out that a string of unfortunate blunders, a really unrealistic low bid by the contractor and scheduling breakdowns culminated in the enormous delay and ballooning costs. The opening is a triumph for all involved, as it marks the beginning of a new era on Hamburg’s cultural landscape. The sculptural glass structure—fitted with 600 curved glass panes—curves upward to asymmetric peaks, like frozen waves. Its windows illuminate beautifully in the evening, as it seems to glow from within.

Better days are now on the horizon, with a grand opening concert planned for January 11, 2017. When the first musical notes are played within the hall, they’ll have 10,000 acoustic panels ensuring perfect sound quality.

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