From historical institutions like the Vienna Musikverein to newer landmarks like the Sydney Opera House, architects have striven to design concert halls that capture the beauty and intrigue of the music they are home to. Here are five groundbreaking performance spaces built in the last decade.
New World Center (Miami Beach, FL)
Opened January 2011
Home of New World Symphony
Frank Gehry was enlisted by conductor Michael Tilson Thomas to design the New World Center as a home for Thomas’s elite orchestral training academy. Although the hall’s exterior is uncharacteristically simple for Gehry, the Center challenges the conventions of concert hall design with features that bring musicians and performers closer together. Its plain white exterior doubles as a massive projector screen that displays a live feed of concerts happening inside, allowing people to watch and listen for free from the structure’s adjoining park. The intimate auditorium also has five sprawling screens for videos to be projected during performances as well as a large window behind the stage that attempts to break down the typical barrier between the concert hall and everyday life.
Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg, Germany)
Opening in 2012
Home of the NDR Symphony Orchestra
Situated atop a historic warehouse on the Elbe River harbor, the crystalline Elbphilharmonie towers over Hamburg—upon opening, it will be the city’s tallest inhabited building. Its facade is constructed of over a thousand individually shaped panes covering an area equivalent to three football fields. The inside of the Elbphilharmonie is equally striking, with a Grand Hall that will seat audiences of more than 2100 in a configuration that completely surrounds the stage.
Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles, CA)
Opened in 2003
Home of LA Philharmonic
A list of 21st-century concert halls, if not 21st-century architecture itself, would be incomplete without mention of Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Hall. From its enormous steel curves on the outside to the famed “french-fry” organ in the auditorium, this Los Angeles icon has become a symbol of architectural innovation. As with his New World Center, Gehry worked closely with acoustic designer Yasuhisa Toyota during construction to ensure that the concert hall would sound as beautiful as it looked.
SFJAZZ Center (San Francisco, CA)
Opening in 2013
The SFJAZZ Center is attempting to set a new trend in performance spaces by dedicating itself exclusively to jazz performances. The SFJAZZ program’s artistic director, Randall Kline, hopes to “create a vibrant home for jazz”, a jazz institution akin to a classical concert hall for a city that has strong roots in America’s jazz tradition. The center will be vibrant indeed, with modern features also in some of the aforementioned classical halls: audience surrounding the stage, a lobby visible from outside, and a rugged, urban exterior.
Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall
Created in 2008
The first of its kind, the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall is not a building, but a virtual performance space that is a product of the 21st-century in a different way. Fans around the world can purchase season subscriptions or individual concert tickets to watch performances streaming live in high-definition from the Berlin Philharmonic on their computers or TVs. In addition, patrons can pay to watch archived Philharmonic concerts. The service is an innovation that also serves as a glimpse into what the future may hold for live performance.