The Elbe Philharmonic Hall Hamburg - a beacon of culture

A new landmark is being created in the port of the Hanseatic city of Hamburg: the Elbe Philharmonic Hall. Holcim is closely involved - with a wealth of experience and over 30 different types of concrete, it is helping to make this spectacular vision of a music and meeting place a reality.

At the tip of the Kaiserkai in the port of Hamburg, a great project is coming into being - great in every sense. Work is pushing ahead at full steam on this massive building site. The Elbe Philharmonic Hall will soon tower to a height of 110 meters spanning over 5,800 square meters. An impressive sight in a city that to date has always built vertically. What is going to be performed in this house from 2012 is also impressive. Where cocoa beans were once off-loaded, one of the world's premiere concert halls - the Elbe Philharmonic Hall - is being erected.

Symbol of a new departure
The Elbe Philharmonic Hall was designed by the world-famous Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. It stands for a new departure: the Elbe Philharmonic Hall is part of an ambitious urban expansion project - HafenCity Hamburg - that will showcase culture, and it also stands for a combination of past and present.

The new complex combines two architectures: the calm, tangibly simple form of the old Kaispeicher warehouse from the year 1966 and above it the curved elegance of the new philharmonic hall. The two styles harmonize so well, as is fitting for a concert hall. Together, they look like a crystal set on a plinth. The crystal is constantly changing its appearance, catching the reflections of the sky, the water and the city, merging them into a picture puzzle of the surroundings.

Concert hall, hotel, meeting place
The spatial program of the Elbe Philharmonic Hall is as varied as the building's exterior. In addition to the "Great Hall" with 2,150 seats, there are two smaller concert halls, plus a hotel and 47 apartments. The entrances to the concert halls and the hotel lobby are centered on the Plaza, which is a public space with a sheltered terrace, restaurants, cafés and bars. The heart of the complex is the Elbphilharmonie itself.

Careful planning the key to success
At this moment, the question of the "audience" is still far in the future because until 2012 the only "music" heard at the tip of the Kaiserkai will be the sounds of the concrete mixers and cranes. The concrete will be delivered by an association of suppliers. The construction of this top-notch philharmonic hall is a tremendous challenge for everyone involved. This was clearly an argument in favor of working with Holcim, says Dr. Thomas Möller, who is Chairman of the Management Board of HOCHTIEF Construction AG, which is a member of the investors' syndicate. "Holcim has the necessary experience and can be relied on to rise to the challenge of large orders", explains Möller, who has witnessed at first hand the strengths of Holcim on other projects. Since careful planning is essential for success in a project on this scale, Holcim was involved in the project planning a year before construction began.

Concrete plant right next door
The concrete is sourced mainly from the HafenCity concrete facility, which Holcim built especially for the Elbe Philharmonic Hall project. The location of the plant, which opened in 2007, is just a kilometer away from the HafenCity urban development project with its multitude of huge building sites. The short transport routes are easy on the environment and ensure excellent delivery reliability regardless of the momentary traffic situation in the city of Hamburg. The plant is also optimally equipped, with a broad portfolio of special concretes for particularly demanding construction projects.

Over 30 kinds of concrete
All together, 63,000 cubic meters of concrete will be produced for the Elbe Philharmonic Hall: 12,000 for the foundations and 51,000 for the building fabric. For this quantity, over 30 different, top-quality types of concrete are needed. The concrete types differ as to firmness, consistency, setting properties and resistance to erosion. Facing concrete accounts for about one third of total volume.

The architects wished to have a light-colored concrete surface, so Holcim is using the blast furnace cement for the facing concrete, adding high-quality round gravel instead of crushed stone. This reduces dust, optimizes the surface quality, and improves pumpability in particular over stretches of more than 100 meters. Own gravel quarries and extremely reliable quality control ensure that Holcim supplies only the best material.