This Concert Hall Was Designed By Algorithms To Look As Beautiful As It Sounds

Time to visit Germany.

If you're a music lover, you might want to consider booking a flight to Hamburg, Germany. The city's new concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie, is truly a sight — and sound! — to behold.

According to The Economist, the hall was completed seven years late and at 10 times the projected cost, but the result seems to have been worth the wait. It was designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, famous for the Tate Modern in London and the Olympic stadium in Beijing. With the help of Japanese acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota (known for the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A. and the Suntory Hall in Toyko), they used parametric design, or algorithms, to develop the auditorium's shape.

The walls are lined with 10,000 gypsum fiber acoustic panels, each of which features one million "cells." Toyota determined which panels would require smaller or larger cells to create the best sound for the space, while Herzog and de Meuron aimed to make it visually appealing and comfortable for the 2,100-seat audience.


Benjamin Koren, founder of the studio One to One, which worked on the project, described the purpose of the design to Wired: "As Koren explains it, when sound waves hit a panel, the uneven surface either absorbs or scatters them. No two panels absorb or scatter sound waves alike, but together they create a balanced reverberation across the entire auditorium."

Koren developed the algorithm, which created the panels according to the designers' specifications. "Once all of that is in place," he explained, "I hit play and it creates a million cells, all different and all based on these parameters. I have 100 percent control over setting up the algorithm, and then I have no more control."

As he points out, it's much easier than doing it all by hand.

The Elbphilharmonie's opening inspiring praise from the New York Times, which wrote, "Judging by the creative zest of the opening events, it is on track to incubate a musical culture as optimistic and striking as the building itself."

The structure's facade, which rises above the Elbe River, is just as stunning as the hall inside. It mimics the shape of waves and features 1,000 plate-glass panels that change color in the light. The building also includes a smaller concert hall, a hotel, and apartments.

The Elbphilharmonie is proof that when technology and art come together, beautiful things can happen.

(H/T: Wired)

Cover image: Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock, Inc.


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