Zaha Hadid Architects Proposal Shortlisted For Sverdlovsk Philharmonic, But Uncertainty Over Buildability Remains

Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

To activate the historical and cultural significance of music in the city of Yekaterinburg, a design competition to create a new concert hall was announced earlier in April. From the 47 proposals that were submitted, the top three architectural concepts were recently selected by the jury committee, awarding first place to Zaha Hadid Architects, and the two runner-up positions to Alvisi Kirimoto + Partners and Robert Gutowski Architects respectively.

Despite selecting ZHA's proposal as the project laureate, all three projects are still in contention as the feasibility studies are ongoing. For the snowy climate of this Russian city, the buildability of the design continues to be under debate. 

Having the buzz of a world-renowned firm definitely sparks more interest in the creation of the center, however, it draws the question as to whether such a proposal is suitable for the climate and program of Sverdlovsk, and the intentions behind this selection. The other two projects, equally as provocative, appear to be more feasible while maintaining the ambiance and heritage of the city.

With the outcome still uncertain, it would be a significant turning point for the other two firms to acquire the project over such a prestigious firm, or for the organization to garner enough donors to actualize the originally-selected design. The architectural concepts as proposed by the respective firms are depicted as follows:

Zaha Hadid Architects (United Kingdom)

Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

Often referred to as "frozen music," Hadid's architecture actualizes itself to physically embody the form of sound waves. The curved roof and flowing interiors are intended to mimic the movements of ballet dancers and create a sense of timelessness during a performance. The proposal asserts how the unity of the elements of light and sound symbolizes the cohesive relationship between architecture and music. 

From the view of its expansive underbelly, the auditorium floats above the lobby space, appearing as if it were perched atop of thin air. The gesture accentuates the grandeur of the entryway, with the glass facade enhancing the visual connections between the interior and exterior spaces. 

Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

ALVISI KIRIMOTO + PARTNERS (Italy)

Courtesy of ALVISI KIRIMOTO & PARTNERS Courtesy of ALVISI KIRIMOTO & PARTNERS

Inspired by Marc Augé's Non-Places, the firm proposes the transformation of the concert hall as an instance of a non-place to become an "urban place" by creating landscape patterns, cultural epicenters, and an urban network within the complex. With the focus of integrating secondary programs such as children's play areas, a greenhouse, multipurpose space, an outdoor cafe, and a park, the project acts as a vibrant cultural center.

The exterior facade consisting of a translucent satin-tinted glass and horizontal lamellae panels leave behind an exposed skeletal structure and create a glowing glass box nestled within the historical district. As for the auditorium itself, the formal gesture of carving is used to concoct faces and edges that dynamically reflect the sound, amplifying the auditory experience. 

Courtesy of ALVISI KIRIMOTO & PARTNERS Courtesy of ALVISI KIRIMOTO & PARTNERS

Robert Gutowski Architects (Hungary)

Courtesy of Robert Gutowski Architects Courtesy of Robert Gutowski Architects

Emphasizing the dual focus on creating an attractive acoustic environment while simultaneously providing efficient background infrastructure for musicians, the architects advocated for the long-term sustainability of the cultural center. 

Dominated by bronze slats, the design highlights the interplay between the public and the private through their envelope system. The placement of lamellae panels is multi-layered in varying areas to mimic a thin translucent membrane. The silk color of the panels, coupled with warm white backlit spaces accentuate the effect of golden rain. Amidst the evening sky, the multi-story lobby peeks through, creating a mysterious ambiance and transforming the concert hall into a cultural landmark.

Courtesy of Robert Gutowski Architects Courtesy of Robert Gutowski Architects