By Rachel Ang
By Rachel Ang
Szczecin Philharmonic Hall was completed in 2014, its iconic features of ribbed glass cladding and a jagged roof giving it the appearance of an icy crown. After dark, when it swells with the sounds of music and people, it radiates light through its translucent glass facade; the icy crown changes to a glowing, golden hue.
With its cool, ascetic exterior, the new Philharmonic hall provides a stark contrast to the dark, historical buildings of the coastal city of Szczecin, like an iceberg cast adrift in a forest. The form consists of a series of adjoining gables, which create its energetic zigzagging roof profile. Each gable element also steps forwards and back in plan, articulating the massive facade and giving the appearance of a row of smaller buildings.
Though it stands apart from the city, it takes its cues from the city’s dress code. The complex gable form is a reflection of urban built fabric into which it is inserted – the steeply pitched roofs, the towers across the skyline, the monumentality of the upright ornaments of its neo-Gothic churches and the heavy volumes of its Classicist buildings.
The icy crown holds within it a 13,000-square-metre venue comprised of two levels. The interiors at ground floor continue the cool white theme, dominated by massive forms which dwarf the individual. The spaces are simple and without ornament, illuminated by large skylights above. It is here that you get an idea of the true and enormous scale of the building. A grand spiral staircase draws you up to the auditoriums and event rooms on the upper floor, which include a 1000-seat concert hall, a 200-seat venue for chamber music, and several conference rooms and galleries.
The great symphony hall is the jewel in the crown. Eschewing the cool minimalist language of the rest of the building, it is a carefully sculpted object, a dark, sensual space to close one’s eyes and focus purely on beautiful music. The floor and railings here are dark timber panelling. The ceilings and walls are crafted from angled triangular panels, giving the surfaces the appearance that they have been folded to contain, and bounce around, sound. They are covered with gold leaf, shimmering and showing the uniform, but unique, edges of each leaf – each leaf a sounding board, in the same way leaves in the forest catch the rain.
Photography is by Simon Menges