What!? A Concert Hall in This Non-Place?
The location behind the Ostbahnhof earmarked for the concert hall is currently a non-place. Like many former industrial parks elsewhere, it is cut off from the city. This will not change despite the existing master plan that includes a proposed site for the concert hall. So is this the wrong place, a missed opportunity? Quite the contrary: it offers a unique chance to add a twenty-first-century neighborhood to modern Munich. The master plan will not have to be changed; instead, it will be supplemented, allowing an urban place to emerge within the next 10 to 20 years out of a conglomerate of seemingly random buildings and open spaces. In just a few decades, the location will become part of Munich with prime quality urban spaces that are comparable to the 19th century development of the city centre inspired by Italian models.
This does not require a Wittelsbach, but rather a democratic drive to promote the redesign of the industrial quarter with a generous view of the entire city of Munich. Three urban interventions will lead the way:
A Boulevard of Music
A broad boulevard will span the railroad tracks like a bridge, linking the new music quarter with the Ostbahnhof and the city centre. The Boulevard ends in a central, green park with the new concert hall in the middle and visible from afar. The concert hall relates to this boulevard and to the park. The new building should show itself; it will look out at the city instead of hiding behind the ugly edifice on Friedensstrasse (Werk 10) and a vacant lot (Werk 17).
A Vertical Triad
The music building will not stand alone. It has to be in an urban neighborhood; it has to have neighboring buildings whose physical presence and use will contribute to establishing this new place in the city: a group of tall buildings that relate to each other, with the music building as the core. For example, a trio of high-rise buildings some 80 metres high that accentuate the new music quarter within the urban fabric of the city as a whole. The tower, which is currently in the planning stage (Werk 4), will be complemented by another tower, identical in shape and height. The latter will accommodate offices, a hotel, apartments, and cultural venues; it will contain enough gross floor area to compensate the loss of Werk 10 and Werk 17. The result is a striking pair with no decorative trappings: a straightforward urban gesture. This gesture of twin buildings makes sense because they define a space to be used and filled by the concert hall. In combination, the three buildings become an architectural landmark, a triad for the Munich of the 21st century.
The Concert Hall as a Centrepiece
Munich‘s concert hall will have to carve out a place for itself in the eastern part of the city. Visible from afar, it will say: here is a new place for everyone, a new centre – not an unloved, peripheral urban patch behind a railroad station. It will offer a broad boulevard and a centrally located park, with restaurants, hotels, apartments, offices, and exhibition spaces, with venues for performances and events, with various music halls and locales for all sectors of society, with a music academy and bars. The cultural use will be spread out and accessible to everyone – inside, on top of, and under the building of this new concert hall. As a social sculpture, it will be the expression of an open, democratic society like the Centre Pompidou and at the same time, a classical concert hall such as the 19th century Opéra Garnier or like one of the magnificent Philharmonic Halls built in recent decades.
The shape of the Munich concert hall looks almost classical: like the roof of a huge tent because it accommodates so many uses, like a pyramid because of its almost pure shape, and like a cut crystal with inclusions because of its partial transparency. You can see the large and small concert halls, the foyers and terraces. The spaces are very different in shape, scale and atmosphere: large and small, high and low, intimate, and open. A diversity designed to mirror the wide variety of visitors and users.
In many places the building is transparent or translucent, in others opaque. The activities and functions, the loadbearing structure and circulation within the building will be revealed as in an x-ray. The shape is pure: space, structure, ornament, and surface are interdependent.
The Hall as a Hearth
The shape is familiar, not individualistic, no architectural whimsy, and yet unmistakably iconic. Similarly, the large hall is at once archaic and radically modern. The music emanates from the centre like the bright light of a fire around which people congregate, seated together in a circle and focused on the music. A circular shape but as imperfect and asymmetrical as required by ideal acoustics while also as pure and clear as the promise of the building seen from outside.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2017