The modernist marvel that Hamburg took to its heart: ‘Elphi’ turns five

As the €866m Elbphilharmonie celebrates its fifth anniversary, what could have been a costly mistake has become a symbol of the German city. London, take note

Five years ago the world felt a very different place. Pandemics belonged to disaster movies; the UK was reeling from the divisive Brexit vote but, with Theresa May newly installed as prime minister, the hope was that she might succeed in a soft Brexit and, in London; Simon Rattle’s imminent arrival as the London Symphony Orchestra’s chief conductor was eagerly anticipated and along with it the city’s transformative new Centre for Music.

Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie opened in January 2017 with a glittering gala attended by celebrities and dignitaries. The spectacular concert hall was praised for its bold design, its superb acoustics and its “exceptionally exceptional exceptionalness”. But in London the hope – back then – was that the city’s own new concert hall would one day also be a world-leading arts venue to compete with Hamburg’s.

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