Herzog & de Meuron’s exhibition at the Biennale is focused on the architecture of a symbolic project, with a complex history: The Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall on top of a former industry in Hamburg, which also includes a 250 room five-star hotel, and 47 apartments. The project, in a very advanced state, remains halted since last year due to legal issues with the contractor. In the exhibition, the history of the project is documented with three-dimensional representations of the complex building services; camera shots panning through the construction site; and large-scale models, whose spatial and physical presence represent what the architects wished and still wish to foreground: architecture.
From Herzog & de Meuron: The history of the Elbphilharmonie is an almost incredible example of a bottom-up democratic project, informed with euphoric energy, driven by architectural beauty, cultural-political vision, and civic pride. This energy exhausted itself in the face of exploding building costs and seemingly endless prolonged construction, culminating in a temporary building stop in November 2011. The large-scale construction site increasingly mutated into a battlefield involving the three main players: the client (the City of Hamburg, and its representative ReGe), the general contractor, and the architect/general planner. Ideally, the construction site of every building project is a platform of interaction that engages these three main forces; in this case, it relentlessly exposed conflicting interests and requirements. The story of the Elbphilharmonie provides, as an example, an insight into the extremes that mark the reality of planning and building today.
Our installation for the Biennale presents the project without taking a stand or attempting to analyze the complexities of its evolution. The only comments provided are uncensored press reports, demonstrating that this project has been a focus of public interest and ongoing debate for years.