Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP

Beethoven Festspielhaus Competition

Bonn, Germany

2008 - 2009

The design for this concert hall and rehearsal space in Bonn, the birthplace of Ludwig von Beethoven, comprises a scheme of indoor and outdoor spaces to link the city’s musical heritage with the beauty of its position on the banks of the River Rhine. The urban concept for the project proposes a Beethoven Plateau, connecting the cultural institutions on the Museum Mile and the river with a large urban park, designed in collaboration with landscape architect James Corner’s Field Operations.

The project is organized around three major spaces: the Concert Hall, the Recital/Rehearsal Hall and the Public Foyer. The Concert Hall spans the riverbank’s esplanade, marking the venue from the Rhine, while the Recital Hall identifies the building from the park. The Foyer connects the two halls at their public entrances and dramatically signals the transition from park to river. The organization is completed by the multi-purpose rooms which support the main spaces.

A central atrium space draws the visitor from the main entrance through the building to the view of the Rhine from the expansive glass wall from the east façade. The lower level of the atrium provides an entrance from the river front and parking areas. The central concept in the design of the atrium is its function as a connector between the park and the esplanade along the Rhine. A grand public staircase creates this transition in levels and draws visitors through the building from the park down to the river and vice versa.

The exterior of the Concert Hall is an embossed aluminum “box” that allows natural light to filter into the hall through perforations in its skin. The surface of the box will evolve from a strong, solid form during the day to a light diffusing screen at night. The basic interior shape of the hall draws on the “shoebox” configuration of the best-loved traditional halls, particularly Vienna’s Musikverein, but the layout is sculpted to create a more intimate feeling in plan and section. Overall, the shape of the room is designed to provide a wealth of supportive sound reflections to all the seats in the hall while developing reverberation that every audience member will be able to experience. The acoustic plan was developed by world-renowned acoustician Larry Kierkegaard.

Interior surfaces are paneled in Anegre wood veneer to give the space a feeling of both warmth and strength. Vertical openings in the upper hall, which reach a crescendo above the stage and orchestra, are inspired by the varying densities of notes on Beethoven’s symphony scores. A stacked glass wall behind the organ also offers a source of ambient natural light.

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