YEAR: 2017
Designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg opened on 11 and 12 January 2017 and is destined to become the city’s new cultural benchmark.
Poltrona Frau Contract supplied and installed 2,100 seats in the “Grand Hall”, the main concert hall, located 50 metres up in the middle of the building.
This new complex, built on a site that previously housed an industrial building, will include three auditoriums, a hotel and 45 private residential units. Externally, two quite different architectural styles are visible, in terms of both history and aesthetics, with old and new brought together to create huge impact. The redbrick sixties building is topped with a fabulous construction in glass that reflects the Elbe River, the sky, the port and the upper part of the city with its changing lights.
The Grand Hall is the very heart of this project.                                        The design of this concert hall places the orchestra in the centre, acting as the fulcrum around which the entire space is then organised, with the seats in the stalls developed in parallel lines on the same level as the orchestra and in the gallery. This layout makes for the very best of concert experiences in any seat, in terms both of view and acoustics, and with no seat in the Elbphilharmonie further than 30 metres from centre stage, the overall sound effect is surprisingly engaging.
Placing orchestra and conductor in the middle of the audience is a well-known strategy. Nor is it uncommon for concert hall architecture to put the audience on various levels to make it easy easier to listen and see. The combination of these two principles in the Elbphilharmonie is not just a matter of logic, but is the essence of its construction. The levels and stairs that fill this hall, together with the walls and the ceiling, form the shape of the building. The Grand Hall was not created to fit into an external shell, but was designed to impose its own architecture, and this is where the real innovation lies.
The architects Herzog & de Meuron, responsible for every single detail of the project, also studied and developed the design of the seats in the Grand Hall. Their shape and size integrate perfectly with the logic and architecture of this concert hall helping to make it unique.
HAM, which will be added to the collection of Poltrona Frau auditorium and theatre seats, is a welcoming, comfy armchair in a dynamic style. Its rigid polyurethane supporting frame is in an unusual shell shape. The seat and back are in crushproof polyurethane foam offering constant support, for perfect posture during concerts. The back of the seat is unusual, in curved black lacquered wood, a material that helps to achieve the required acoustics. HAM also stands out for its no-frills lines and careful construction, with all the joins between the various elements that go to make up the seat hidden from view. The fabric is tailor-made as well, created specifically for the Elbphilharmonie— a grey weave with a special moiré effect.
Taking part in a project as complex and futuristic as this with such competent partners represented huge growth for Poltrona Frau in terms of experience. While engineering the HAM seat, the dedicated project team showed great technical skills as well as strong problem-solving ability. Indeed, during the various design stages the seat had to be rethought in order to best meet both the needs  of the designers and the visual and acoustic restrictions. The result of months’ of work can be summarised in figures: 1,200 hours of design and 1,544 drawings; 2,100 seats installed with over 50,000 screws and three different sloping levels at various heights; 2,688 hours of assembly and 38,000 km covered.
The craftsmanship knowhow of Poltrona Frau, built up in a century of tradition, once again been combined with knowledge of cutting-edge technologies, the strictest of regulations and study of ergonomics and acoustics. This continually evolving experience is always at the service of the creativity of designers for projects that become icons of the international architectural scene.