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FIRST LOOK

Alpine ski village concert hall completed by Studio Seilern in Switzerland

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The Andermatt concert hall opened last weekend with an inaugural concert by the Berlin Philharmonic

The concert hall is set 1,437 metres above sea level in the Alpine village of Andermatt, a mountain village in the canton of Uri in Switzerland. It is hoped the new centre for music will promote Andermatt as a cultural destination alongside its already established sports facilities.

London-based Studio Seilern won the go ahead for the £8.76 million concert hall in Andermatt’s new village square at the end of 2017. The scheme essentially reworks an existing building, which previously had been used for conventions, by lifting a major section of its roof and ‘increasing the effective acoustic volume’ from 2,000m³ to 5,340m³, creating a 650-seat hall with a flexible stage capable of hosting a 75-piece orchestra.

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Raising the roof also gave the architect the opportunity to create a sculptural object. Rethinking the notion of a concert hall as being a closed and inward-looking space, Studio Seilern added a glass facade, creating greater transparency between inside and out. A centralised stage concept was adopted to create a symmetrical space within, while developing an origami interior configuration allowing a well-balanced acoustic solution.

The extended roof of the concert hall creates a covered plaza and an extra entrance to be accessed independently from neighbouring hotels. The steel overhang above the road allows for large trucks to pass underneath in addition to providing a sheltered space for visitors to look down into the hall through a glazed partition.

The hall is also equipped with an electro-acoustic system that allows a greater reverberation time for larger orchestras. Inclined balcony fronts and the sculptural timber ceiling geometrically wrap the space, acoustically enhancing the experience of the hall. A suspended acoustic reflector guides sound from the musicians with a time delay if necessary.

A retractable system within the hall allows for changes of layout – up to nine rows of stepped platforms can be pushed beneath the main balcony, creating a 12m-high space. 

An existing concrete staircase connecting the hall to adjacent hotel will be transformed into a foyer following on from the concert hall’s redevelopment. The foyer’s inclined walls will be clad in faceted reflective glass, inspired by the rock formations and glaciers of the Alps.

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Architect’s view

The project transforms an existing underground space – a concrete box with an effective volume of approximately 2,000m3 – that was primarily intended to host conferences and conventions for nearby hotels.

We proposed lifting a large section of the existing roof to double the effective acoustic volume up to 5,340m3, increasing the total capacity to be able to host a 75-piece full symphony orchestra and a total of 663 audience seats.

By adding a glass façade, the concert hall is awash with natural light. The romantic idea was that in winter the audience would be surrounded by a whirlwind of snow, and in summer by nature and sunshine. From street level, the acoustic reflectors are seen as floating over an empty space, like a sculpture that has been placed as public art. Passers-by can then see into the concert hall and indeed see an audience and orchestra from the street, as a spectacle.

Due to the planning parameters of the site, only a portion of the roof could be elevated, making the stage configuration awkward and undesirable. Therefore, a centralised stage concept was adopted to create a symmetrical space, to allow the right early reflections to travel through differing ceiling heights and side balconies. The origami configuration of the interior of the hall was devised with Kahle Acoustics to create well-balanced natural acoustics. The hall is also equipped with an electro-acoustic system that allows a greater reverberation time, enabling orchestral ensembles to perform with optimum acoustics.

Christina Seilern, principal, Studio Seilern Architects

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Client’s view

Our new concert hall, which adds value to Andermatt as a destination, will hopefully make a contribution to music in Europe. There is certainly no other mountain resort that boasts a venue good enough to attract the Berlin Philharmonic. The hall has also led the Lucerne Festival to come to us with an exciting satellite festival – a venture they have never undertaken before.

I have always believed that culture is an essential part of a major destination. The brief for the concert hall was to upgrade an existing building. Studio Seilern was prepared to start work with essentially a low-grade box and turn it into what it is today. The idea for the hall was that it should, like Andermatt ski village, function all year round. 

Samih Sawiris, chair, Andermatt Swiss Alps

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Project data 

Start on site January 2018
Completion March 2019
Gross internal floor area 2,072m²
Construction cost £8.76 million (11 million CHF)
Architect Studio Seilern Architects
Client Andermatt Swiss Alps, BESIX
Structural engineer Suisseplan
M&E consultant BESIX
Landscape consultant Hager
Acoustic consultant Kahle Acoustics
Theatre consultant Ducks Sceno
Fire consultant AFC
Lighting design Michael Josef Heusi GmbH
Main contractor BESIX

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