Berlin Philharmonic is a concert hall in Berlin, Germany which is home to one of the best orchestras in the world—the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. It was designed by architect Hans Scharoun. The construction which started in 1960, was completed in 1963. The old Berlin Philharmonic was destroyed in World War II by British bombers in 1944 and was redesigned by Hans Scharoun post-war.
Hans Scharoun was an active member and a part of the Neues Bauen movement and entered the architects association Der Ring which promoted modernist architecture. His motto was “An independent architect should be guided by his reflections and not the desire for sensation.”
The Berlin Philharmonic is a striking example for concert halls throughout the world. It is considered a unique example of architecture as it does not have a traditional style even though it was built in 1963. The modern approach makes it stand apart and become an example for other concert halls.
The Berlin Philharmonic design was a part of a competition that was implemented after Hans Scharoun won it. The concept for designing the concert hall was music. Hans Scharoun’s philosophy for this project was simple and straightforward and in line with his principles of design; he wanted to create a relationship between people, space and music through this design.
The Berlin Philharmonic is a tent-like asymmetrical structure divided into various levels.
It has two music halls; the Main Auditorium with a seating capacity of 2500 people and a smaller Chamber Music Hall with a capacity of 1200 people.
The main auditorium has a hexagonal stage in the centre (not the geometric centre) with seating arrangement on all sides. This results in the most optimum acoustics for the orchestra and creates a more intimate ambience. The section shows us more clearly how the concave fish bowl-like interior and angled ceiling helps in distributing the sound throughout the hall by reflecting it.
The spatial arrangement makes this building more interesting and unique. The height of each row of seating is different to give the audience a clear view of the stage. Its seating style was compared to the vineyards on the slopes of a wide valley by the architect himself. This ‘vineyard style’ seating with balcony terraces arising from the central stage became a model and was used by various other architects in their designs like Sydney Opera House among many others.
The Chamber Music Hall was built between 1984-1987 after the death of Hans Scharoun. The construction was completed based on the drawings and design made by Hans Scharoun and was looked after by his office partner Edgar Wisniewski. The Chamber Music Hall is opposite the Philharmonic and is called the Kammermusiksaal. The chamber music hall is hexagonal in shape with the stage in the centre. The seating is similar to the Philharmonic with irregular heights for clear visibility.
The interior spaces of the Berlin Philharmonic have determined the exterior design. Hans Scharoun started designing from inside towards outside. He made changes and added elements to the building subsequently, creating the outer shape of the building.
There are striking angles and tent-shaped elevation serves the purpose of blending in with the forest landscape around namely, the Tiergarten which is located to the north of the Berlin Philharmonic. The auditorium is constructed above the main foyer, thus determining the layout of the other spaces such that their functions are not disturbed. It also helps decide the rhythm for the staircases in the building.
The facade of the Berlin Philharmonic is covered with a yellow metal material. The purpose of this colour is to maintain the balance between earth and the surrounding landscape and colour.
Hans Scharoun built this piece of architecture making it a perfect urban space in the context of Berlin post-war. The Berlin Philharmonic is a well-known project which serves as a great example of organic architecture. It is an example of a modernist approach to design creating cultural and social changes thereby creating a change in how music was perceived.
It maintains the harmony in design which makes it perfect for the program it serves i.e. music. The Berlin Philharmonic has been guided by a leading principle; ‘music at its center’ and the architect has stuck by it.
A virtual tour of the Berlin Philharmonic can be done on the following link:
Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra | History, Conductors, & Facts. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Berlin-Philharmonic-Orchestra [Accessed 30 Mar. 2021].
Kroll, A. (2019). AD Classics: Berlin Philharmonic / Hans Scharoun. [online] ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/108538/ad-classics-berlin-philharmonic-hans-scharoun.
WikiArquitectura. (n.d.). Berlin Philharmonic – Data, Photos & Plans. [online] Available at: https://en.wikiarquitectura.com/building/berlin-philharmonic/#.