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Herzog & de Meuron: Transparet Zeppeling
Rivista compasses N° 6
di , 2009
Autore: Michele Costanzo
Articoli The Hamburg Philharmonic Hall, designed by Herzog & de Meuron and currently under construction, is perhaps the most important element of a vast urban redevelopment programme that includes the renovation of HafenCity, an extensive 157-hectare neighbourhood along the port, not far from the city centre, whose density is to be increased by some 40%. This transformation is focused on introducing a range of different functions: residential,
commercial, business and cultural.
As mentioned, the most interesting element of this urban renewal operation is the Philharmonic Hall: a social-cultural centre strategically located at the furthest tip of the wharf in the area of the port.
What sets this project apart from others is the decision to bring together, in a new idea of design, two different elements that belong, respectively, to the past and the present: on the one hand the Kaispeicher A, an imposing brick warehouse1 and, on the other, the new structure of the Philharmonic Hall that sits on the roof of this preexisting volume.
The interior of the Philharmonic Hall is a collection of highly diversified spaces: a 2,100-seat auditorium, a 550-seat concert hall for chamber music, a luxury hotel, a café, a restaurant, apartments and a health and fitness centre.
The new structure sits atop the old warehouse, separated by a void that transforms the roof of the Kaispeicher into a large public square that offers a panoramic view over the port and the entire city. Sinuous and wrapping staircases connect this space to the hotel and the music halls. A similar approach of wrapping can also be found inside the auditorium with its centrally located stage, surrounded by the public seating.
The project takes its cue from a strong contrast between materials and forms: on the one hand, the imposing, boxy and self-referential volume of the Kaispeicher, with its dark brick walls and limited number of openings and, on the other hand, the lightweight, transparent undulating form of the Philharmonic Hall, creates a singular visual effect.
In fact, the curved glass panels that clad the structure render its plastic form iridescent in a play of reflections (the city, the port, the sky, etc.) and visually inconsistent, almost weightless, suspended like a large, inflated zeppelin.
This play of contrasts and the continuous oscillation between reality and illusion reveals a method of creating architecture and expressing meaning that is a substantial element in the design research of Herzog & de Meuron. The prevalent themes of their ideas, above all in their more recent work, are essentially two.
The first has to do with the spatial quality of the façade, understood as an independent envelope that allows its authors to infuse it with an autonomous iconic value; this serves in turn as the base for the elements and methods of defining the formal character of the building in its overall complexity. This skin becomes the container/bearer of an order that transcends the traditional code of architecture to create a new one.
The second theme has to do with the idea of narrative gravity, the liberation of the volume and its expressive manifestation, the perception of its mass or its material consistency. In the work of Herzog & de Meuron this takes place in various ways and in various forms, though always with the intention of transmitting the idea of the suspension of the architectural object.
This iconography of the weight of matter and the consequent attempt to free it from its physical-conceptual conditioning is, in and of itself, the expression of a crisis that is representative of a condition of reality and the need or the interior necessity of developing a new representation of the world.

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