Give Now

Five Inspired Concert Halls Of The 21st-Century

Groundbreaking performance spaces built in the last decade.

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.

newworld center wide

Photo: Claudia Uribe/New World Symphony

Frank Gehry's toned-down exterior of the New World Center features projection screens for outdoor viewing.

New World Center (Miami Beach, FL)
Opened January 2011
Home of New World Symphony

new world

Photo: LA Times

Five screens inside will allow audiences to experience the latest in multimedia performance.

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


Photo: Herzog & de Meuron/AFP/Getty Images

This computer-generated image shows an exterior view of the planned Elbphilharmonie hall in Hamburg. The building will host two auditoriums, a luxury hotel, apartments, restaurants and shops.

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

walt disney hall

Photo: Phillip Ritz (flickr)

The Walt Disney Hall opened its doors in 2003 after nearly a decade of design and construction.

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.

WD concert organ

Photo: wikicommons

The concert organ was designed by Frank Gehry, in collaboration with organ consultant and sound designer Manuel Rosales, to look "like a logjam kind of thing" turned sideways.


SFJAZZ Center (San Francisco, CA)
Opening in 2013

sfjazz center exterior

Photo: SFJazz

The hall, set to open in 2012, will be the heart of jazz in San Francisco.

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.



The SFJAZZ Center will be the first of its kind-- a hall built specifically for jazz.


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.

Sam Callahan

Sam Callahan graduated from IU in 2013 with degrees in Trumpet Performance and Economics. He is now a student at Harvard Law School.

View all posts by this author »

  • Medwick

    That hall in Hamburg looks like it will be stunning if it turns out anything like the computer projection. And what a great thing, in SF, to have a hall dedicated to jazz!

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

Search Arts and Music

Stay Connected

RSS e-mail itunes Facebook Twitter Flickr YouTube

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Recent Culture Stories

Arts & Culture Events RSS icon

More Events »Submit Your Event »

Arts & Music is on Twitter

Find Us on Facebook

This Week on Earth Eats

Scientists Peek Inside The ‘Black Box’ Of Soil Microbes


Microorganisms play a vital role in growing food, but most are still not known. Scientists are now learning which soil microbes are most common.

Read more »

Earth Eats is a podcast, radio program and blog of the freshest news and recipes inspired by local food and sustainable agriculture.

More from Earth Eats »

This Week on Focus on Flowers

Liatris Is A Monarch Magnet

Liatris ligulistylis

Liatris attracts lots of those lovely Monarch butterflies into our gardens.

Read more »

Focus on Flowers is a weekly program about flower gardening hosted by master gardener Moya Andews.

More from Focus on Flowers »