Herog and Meurons’s Elbphilharmonie auditorium

The music hall where parametric design meets architecture and music

Hamburg, Germany


The amazing structure rises above the city of Hamburg, Germany. Herog and De Meuron’s Elbphilharmonie is something unique and it is unique not only for the gently curved elevator or the Esher-esque stairways that guide you from one floor to another. 

Elbphilharmonie most interesting feature is the central auditorium a gleamory ivory cave built from 10,000 unique acustic panels that define cealing, walls and balustrades. The room space gives you the sensation to be alive like a white coral cave down the see.

This is the largest of three halls in Elbphilharmonie. The auditorium is the result of parametric design, a process where algorithm where used to realize design objects’ form. The technique was applied in the auditorium to create a unique shape for each of the 10,000 gypsum fiber acoustic panels in the walls like pices of giant and ondulating puzzle. The result is impressive and brilliant. It give off-white skin sensation.

The 10,000 panels are made of one million of cells that look like someone used a seashell to carve out a chunk of materials. Each panel has is acoustic function and to design them Herzog and De Meuron worked with Yasuhisa Toyota, famed acoustician. Toyota created an optimal sound map for the audithorium based on the room’s geometry. 

In each area the panels change their constitution according to the acoustician projects sound map. There are some areas, for exemple, where some panels would need deeper, bigger grooves to adsorb echoes or where shallower cells are required. 

Toyota work had to join architects preferences. So the skin had to appear consistent thoroughout the room, regardless of acoustic requirements and more than everything it had to be amazing.

According to those parameters, Benjamin Koren, founder of One to One (the studio that worked to design and fabricate the panels), developed an algorithm that produced 10,000 panels, each with a unique shape and pattern, mapped to clear aesthetic and acoustic specifications. For Koren “That’s the power of parametric design. Once all of that is in place, I hit play and it creates a million cells, all different and all based on these parameters. I have 100 percent control over setting up the algorithm, and then I have no more control.”

To loose control could be scary, especially for a designer Koren, anyway, finds it more practical: “It would be insane to do this by hand,” he says. The outcome, too, might have looked less original. 

img.0Main concert hall of Hamburg Elbphilharmonie (photo by Iwan Baan)

img.1Panels cell particular (photo by Maxim Shulz)

img.2The concert hall's reflectors has panels arranged in the shape of Fibonacci flower (photo by Micheal Zapf)

img.3The Elbphilharmonie facade (photo by Maxim Schulz)


For further information, please visit Wired.