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Culture

Hamburg to Get New Music Temple

The port city of Hamburg will boast an imposing new landmark in future: a swanky glass and steel philharmonic concert hall perched above an old cocoa storehouse on the banks of the Elbe river.

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Dream boat: the planned new philharmonic hall

Not exactly known as a Mecca for classical music, Hamburg could well be on the way to changing that image with its approval of ambitious plans to build a sleek new philharmonic hall along the lines of the Carnegie Hall in New York or the Disney Hall in Los Angeles.

Both the governing Christian Democrats and the opposition Greens gave the green light Wednesday for the new architectural highlight to be built atop an old cocoa storehouse in the port city on the banks of the Elbe river.

Spectacular design

Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron will build the new concert hall. Computer stimulated pictures of the project show a shimmering wavy glass roof set atop the dull brown bulky storehouse. With the Elbe river lapping around it, the structure resembles a gigantic ship.

BdT Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg

The planned auditorium hall inside the new philharmonic

The structure will house a chamber music hall for 600 spectators and an auditorium where 2,200 visitors can be seated in curved rows all around the orchestra. The acoustics will be created by Japanese Yashuhisa Toyota, who's already proved his talent at the Disney Hall.

In addition, the mammoth structure will also include a hotel and apartments.

The glass and steel wonder won't come cheap: the entire project, including refurbishing the old warehouse is estimated to cost 186 million euros ($225 million). The city of Hamburg will chip in with 77 million euros and the rest will be shouldered by investors and donations.

The opening of the philharmonic hall is slated for 2009.

Hamburgers proud and excited

The Hamburgers are suitably excited at the prospect of having a world-class concert hall in their city.

"The 'Elbphilharmonie' is a landmark with which the Hamburgers can identify and one they're proud of and it's also a landmark that will be accessible to all Hamburgers," Karin von Welck, Hamburg's culture minister told German news agency dpa.

"Just as the Eiffel Tower is identified with Paris, Big Ben with London and the Brandenburg Gate with Berlin -- in the same way, the 'Elbphilharmonie' will be identified with Hamburg all over the world in the future," said Dietrich Rusche, a Christian Democrat parliamentarian in Hamburg.

Will it pull in the stars?

BdT Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg

The future concert hall has created much buzz in Hamburg

Despite the buzz surrounding the spectacular new concert hall, its reception in the German media has been partially skeptical.

Questions are being raised about whether Hamburg will manage to attract enough classical music fans to fill the massive new auditorium and crucially, whether it can lure big stars to perform there.

"Hamburg has a lot of catching up to do," news agency dpa wrote.

"The city doesn't have a real first-class orchestra and even the rest of the concert offerings aren't really exciting either," an article in the respected daily Süddeutsche Zeitung said Thursday.

"The city seems to be convinced that a lively concert life and the yearning for classical music can be established without much of a problem."

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