The Berliner Philharmonie is a concert hall in Berlin, Germany, and home to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. It lies on the south edge of the city's Tiergarten and just west of the former Berlin Wall. The Philharmonie is on Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, named for the orchestra's longest-serving principal conductor. The building forms part of the Kulturforum complex of cultural institutions close to Potsdamer Platz.
It opened on 15 October 1963 with Herbert von Karajan conducting Beethoven's 9th Symphony. It was built to replace the old Philharmonie, destroyed by British bombers on 30 January 1944, the eleventh anniversary of Hitler becoming Chancellor. The hall is a singular building, asymmetrical with the main concert hall in the shape of a pentagon. The height of the rows of seats increases irregularly with distance from the stage. The stage is at the centre of the hall, surrounded by seating on all sides. The so-called vineyard-style seating arrangement (with terraces rising around a central orchestral platform) was pioneered by this building, and became a model for other concert halls, including the Sydney Opera House (1973), Denver's Boettcher Concert Hall (1978), the Gewandhaus in Leipzig (1981), Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (2003), and the Philharmonie de Paris (2014).
The iconic building is asymmetrical in shape appearing like a golden, draped tent. The concert hall is still highly regarded for its original design and acoustic qualities. The Philharmonie is comprised of two venues with a connecting lobby, including a large auditorium with 2,440 seats for orchestral concerts and a slightly smaller chamber-music hall, with 1,180 seats. Although conceived as an ensemble, the smaller venue was only added in the 1980's.
It was one of the first concert buildings to be designed with a central stage, surrounded by audience seating on all four sides. When looking at a section of the building, the main auditorium is shaped to project sound in all directions. The angular ceiling is draped over the auditorium space which heightens the rhythmic sounds. Programmatically the building is simple, however the design formally expresses complex interior spaces that are then reflected through to the exterior. The 'draping' effect of the interior and the angular composition are expressed in the volume of each each hall design.
The exterior facades are dynamic which compliment and establish a relationship with Tiergarten, Berlin's famous gardens situated to the north of the Philharmonic. The curve and angle of the facades create a soft backdrop within the forested landscape. In addition to the form, the facade is also distinctly recognisable from the golden, metal mesh that clads the exterior.
On 20 May 2008 a fire broke out in the hall. One-quarter of the roof had considerable damage, as firefighters were required to cut openings in order to reach the flames beneath the roof. The hall interior sustained water damage but was otherwise "generally unharmed". Firefighters limited the damage by using foam. The cause of the fire was attributed to welding work, and no serious damage was caused either to the structure or interior of the building. Performances resumed, as scheduled, on 1 June 2008 with a concert by the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra.