Opening Elbphilharmonie Plaza

ulrike_brandi_ephh

Not only is the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg outstanding architecture, but it is also a complex illuminated work of art. It combines poetry and glamour with concrete pragmatism. Together with Herzog & de Meuron the Hamburg based lighting designer Ulrike Brandi is responsible for the concept.
Not only the acoustics and the architecture, but also the light in and around the Elbphilharmonie satisfy the highest demands of the city of Hamburg. For this reason, the internationally renowned designer Ulrike Brandi was hired. She developed together with Herzog & de Meuron a particularly reserved light concept, which highlights dignity and festivity, but at the same time leaves the architecture in the forefront. “The architecture of the Elbphilharmonie is powerful enough”, explains Ulrike Brandi, “so we did not want to create a secondary spectacle with the light. The artificial light is modest and works with simple optical principles “.
With this approach it is clear that there was no need for spotlights for a night illumination. In the HafenCity, there is sufficient scattered light from the surrounding area. As a result, the concert hall is easily visible without its own spotlights. This also applies to the brick of the building, which is only equipped with small windows. The light concept also corresponds to the Federal Emission Protection Act, which also regulates light pollution. The port city is a residential area. The light emission of the Elbphilharmonie is designed in such a way that it does not interfere with the immediate environment.
Special lighting accents fill the gap between the old and the new building parts as well as the large arches, which are cut into the facade. They are illuminated in the evening and add rhythm to the entire picture. During the day, they carry daylight deep into the building.

During the entire planning it was ensured that the sky, the water and the panorama of the city can also be experienced from within. That is, in the plaza or in the foyers, it is never so bright that the view outside would be hindered.

A spectacular lighting experience can be found directly behind the entrance above the escalator. The light in the 80-meter-long tunnel is festive. It is reflected from the walls and the ceiling into the room, while glossy spots on the matte plaster provide additional special effects. They dazzle like sequins on evening dresses and thus form the prelude to a celebratory evening. A special feature is that the lights are installed at the bottom, hidden beside the stairs. This not only ensures wonderful indirect light, but is also important for subsequent maintenance. In the tunnel, it is difficult for ladders or scaffolding to be erected. Therefore the floor is a good position for the lights.

In the plaza the artificial light comes from the ceiling. The light is reflected from the spherical lamps, but there are zones of different light intensity, as in a cloudy sky. The round luminaires can be found everywhere in the building, but they are used differently. Sometimes grouped into rhombuses, sometimes “randomly” distributed over areas. They are something like a musical motif, which is repeated in variations. This creates a lighting harmony, without becoming monotonous.

Over 3400 lamps were installed according to Ulrike Brandi’s plans. Specifically designed and manufactured for the project were: 750 glass ball lamps in the plaza, 650 mouth-blown glass ball lamps for the large hall as well as 750 linear lamps for the foyer. These radiate out from the ceiling around the concert hall, a symbolically charged positioning that was a special wish of the architects: the hall as a radiant center of the entire building.

In the concert hall itself, the illumination emphasizes the grandeur of the bright, spacious room. It also emphasizes the terracing of the tiers by placing the ball lamps under their ceilings while the parapets are not illuminated. The so-called microshaping of the walls, which was created for the acoustics, provides playful optical effects. The lighting with its many small light points emphasizes the wave-like and irregular structure.

Furthermore, there are lights placed on top of the large acoustic reflector on the ceiling. These lights illuminate the vault above it, otherwise it would have felt like a dark cave. On its underside, stage lighting is installed. Additional stage lights are discreetly situated behind a slit in the ceiling.

An integral part of the lighting planning are the windows; thousands of dots create a pixelated effect. Their pattern is used for sun protection. In contrast to the usual sun protection glass, however, the light is not filtered uniformly over the entire window surface. The dots become denser along the edges, while in the middle, the view is free. This weighting makes the façade livelier and the view to the outside more interesting. The dots are coated silver outside so that they reflect light. On another layer, there are points inside which are black so they do not reflect. They make sure you can look outside without being blinded by the sun. At the same time, the round dots take on the festive sequined motif, which can be found in the tunnel as well as the ball lamps.

Ulrike Brandi is an internationally renowned lighting planner based in Hamburg. She has carried out more than 800 interior and exterior lighting projects from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai, Paris to London. Projects include Hamburg’s City Hall, Terminal 2 in Munich Airport, Rotterdam Centraal Station, Masterplan for the British Museum in London and the Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart.


Client:
ARGE Generalplaner Elbphilharmonie Herzog & de Meuron,
Höhler und Partner
Architect: Herzog & de Meuron
Lighting Design: Ulrike Brandi Licht
Completion: 2016



Interview with lighting designer Ulrike Brandi about the light for the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg

Is there a basic idea for the lighting design?
Yes. First of all we stated that the architecture of the Elbphilharmonie is powerful enough, so we did not start a secondary spectacle of light. The light is complementary, modest and works with simple optical principles.
It was essential for me to keep the connection between inside and outside the entire time. Sky, water and the panoramic view of the city should be able to be experienced from the inside. This means it shouldn’t be too bright inside.

In the evenings the building is not lit from outside. Why not?

There is already enough scattered light in the HafenCity area of Hamburg. The brick stone basis of the building is visible at night, even if it has got only small windows and doesn’t spread light from the interior. In addition, there are legal restrictions of light emissions of buildings in residential areas regarding light pollution. The HafenCity is a residential area and we had to carry out stringent checks on how much light the Elbphilharmonie emits. This also applied to the upper part, which had to be designed in such a way that it did not interfere with the immediate environment.

What will you see in the evening and at night from the Elbphilharmonie?
One factor is the extended twilight hours that occur in this latitude. We have a phase of at least one and a half hours during the summer, in which the light changes from minute to minute. During this time a dialogue between daylight and artificial light begins to dominate the artificial light until the end. The result is a variety of effects from the light refraction, the play of illuminated and unlit windows, and the printed grid glass of the façade. The slit between the quayside and the new building and the large arches cut into the façade are particularly striking. The high arches not only create accents to the outside but also carry daylight deep into the building.

The visitors’ path begins after a foyer with an escalator, which leads through an 80-meter long tunnel. Does one feel claustrophobic?
No, on the contrary. The escalator is not linear but slightly curved. The curved upward movement is a special experience and the light in the tunnel is festive. The light is reflected from the walls and the ceiling into the room, while glossy spots on the matte plaster provide additional special effects. They dazzle like sequins on evening dresses and thus form the prelude to a celebratory evening. A special feature is that the lights are installed at the bottom, hidden beside the stairs. This not only ensures wonderful indirect light, but is also important for subsequent maintenance. In the tunnel, it is difficult for ladders or scaffolding to be erected. Therefore the floor is a good position for the lights.
As mentioned before, it was important to us that the lights inside are not so bright that the view outside is blocked. The view is one of the most important features of this plaza. The artificial light comes from the ceiling. This flattens the reflected light from the spherical lamps, but there are zones of different light intensity, as in a cloudy sky. The round luminaires can be found everywhere in the building, but they are used differently. Sometimes grouped into rhombuses, sometimes “randomly” distributed over areas. They are something like a musical motif, which is repeated in variations. This creates harmony, without getting boring.

Then you enter the foyer. What kind of light is waiting for you there?
The foyer is situated around the large concert hall like a ring. Its arched shape is easily recognizable in the foyer. From here, linear LEDs on the ceiling radiate radically, a symbolically charged positioning, which was a special wish of the architects: the hall as a radiant center of the entire building.

You also took part in designing the light fixtures for the Elbphilharmonie. How many were installed?

Over 3400 luminaires were installed according to our plans. Specifically designed and manufactured for the project were: 750 glass ball luminaires in the plaza, 750 linear luminaires for the foyer as well as 650 mouth-blown glass ball luminaires for the large hall.

In some places you can also look outside. Why are the windows so pixelated?

This is for sun protection. In contrast to the usual sun protection glass, the light is not filtered uniformly over the entire window surface. The dots become denser along the edges, while in the middle, the view is free. The filter result is the same as for a uniform coating, but much more interesting. The dots are coated silver outside so that they reflect light. On another layer, there are points inside which are black so they do not reflect. They make sure you can look outside without being blinded by the sun. At the same time, the round dots take on the festive sequined motif, which can be found in the tunnel as well as the ball lamps.

What is the light concept for the large concert hall, the heart of the Elbphilharmonie?

Our common concern was to show the grandeur of the space. I am sure that the hall, like the façade, will become a first-rate photo motif for visitors. The room is very high and the tiers are steep, as well as the large and small wavy shapes. The lighting is designed to underline the terracing of the tiers. The ball lamps are installed under their ceilings, the parapets are not illuminated. Everything is bright, one can feel the vastness of the space and can breathe. What was very important was the so-called microshaping, the irregular and wavy surface structure of the walls designed for the acoustics. I am absolutely delighted by the liveliness of the hall. The light with its many small light points emphasizes these playful, interesting effects. If we had used large-area lights, everything would have been flat and muddy.

How did you deal with the large acoustic reflector on the ceiling?
The funnel is a defining element for the space. There are lights on its top, which illuminate the vault above it, otherwise one would have had a dark hole. On its underside, stage lighting is installed. Another part of the stage light comes from a slot in the ceiling, the headlights are not visible. The orchestral musicians need up to a thousand lux to read their notes. When the hall light is then dimmed down at the beginning of the concert, only the stage is illuminated. And you can see the safety lighting for the stairs, which draw a fine, graphic pattern in the room.
Interviewer: Christian Tröster

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