Hamburg's spectacular Elbphilharmonie concert hall. Picture: Maxim Scholtz

Hamburg - It is safe to say that so much of the new Elbphilharmonie concert hall, located on Hamburg's river harbour, is unique and is a glittering palace of superlatives.

The list of highlights is an imposing one, starting with the Grand Hall, which - for acoustic reasons - is completely detached and sitting atop massive steel springs. Then there is the crystalline glass facade with its 1,096 curved window panels. And 'the Tube,' a convex escalator taking visitors to a 360-degree viewing platform.

Here is an overview of the main attractions:


With seating for nearly 2,100, the Grand Hall was built on the 'vineyard principle' of positioning the stage in the middle, surrounded by seating areas like terraces rising steeply up all around. No seat is more than 30 metres from the stage.

For sound-proofing reasons, the 12,500-ton Grand Hall is completely detached from the rest of the building, resting atop 362 massive steel springs that totally buffer the hall from outside sounds - so that not even the blaring of ships' sirens can be heard from the harbour outside.

Suspended from the middle of the vaulted ceiling is a huge reflector whose panels evenly distribute sound throughout the hall.


Covering the walls and ceiling of the Grand Hall are some 10,000 sheets of gypsum fibre panels, each with its own individual shape, size, weight and surface structure. This assures that sound waves are optimally reflected, making the concert hall one of the 10 best in the world.

Japanese acoustics expert Yasuhisa Toyota designed the 'white skin' surface. Toyota said his aim was that everyone in the hall could hear the sound equally well, "no matter whether they are sitting in the first or the last row."


What captivates a visitor's first view of the Elbphilharmonie is its glistening crystal-like facade, comprised of 1,096 curved window panels, each individually imprinted with a pattern of chromium dots to protectively reflect the sun's rays. Each glass panel weighs about 1.2 tons and in wind-tunnel tests can withstand hurricane-strength gusts.

Many of the panels' convex form gives the impression of huge tuning forks.

The total facade area covers some 21,000 square-metres, with the architects saying the aim is to create the impression of a huge crystal providing an ever-changing reflection of the sky, the water and the city skyline.


It takes two and a half minutes to ride up the 82-metre-long escalator, called the 'Tube,' which carries visitors to the public plaza 37 metres above street level.

The Finnish company Kone says the two-lane, convex-curved escalator is "the longest escalator in western Europe and the only one in the world that forms an arc."

The tube, decorated with sparkling glass spangles, ends at a panoramic window looking out over the harbour. Visitors reach the plaza after a further, short escalator ride and by climbing a few steps.


The Plaza is 4,000 square metres and serves as the public observation platform located between the historic Kaispeicher warehouse below and the new concert hall above.

"If you look on the Kaispeicher as part of the harbour, and the concert building as part of the city, then it is precisely at this spot where the two worlds converge," says Ascan Mergnthaler, the project leader for the architects.

It is from the plaza that visitors proceed via curving staircases to the large and small concert halls, to the restaurant area and the hotel lobby. Two huge windbreakers connect to the balcony which forms a 360-degree viewing platform around the building.

Given the limited space, Plaza visits are regulated by ticket sales. Concertgoers however do not need an extra ticket.


"I have never experienced an organ like this. The sound is coming from everywhere. The sound is so round, warm, and with fantastic frequencies," exclaims the Elbphilharmonie's Titular Organist, Iveta Apkalna.

The imposing instrument covers an area of 15 by 15 metres, yet visitors see only a fraction of it, since the rest is hidden behind the wall panelling. The organ has a total of 4,765 pipes, the tiniest being one of tin just 11 millimetres long, the largest, made of wood, 10 metres long.

Some pipes have been covered with a special coating to allow visitors to touch them, something that usually is strictly prohibited.