BIG Wins Competition for Vltava Philharmonic Hall in Prague

John Hill
18. May 2022
Visualization: BIG

Taking its name from the Vltava River that it will adjoin, the future Vltava Philharmonic Hall will be the first national concert hall in the Czech Republic in over 100 years. It will be the home of two orchestras: the Prague Symphony Orchestra FOK and the Czech Philharmonic. It will contain three concert halls — the Prague, Holešovice, ad Vltava Halls, the latter being the main venue — but also facilities for the music department and the Municipal Library of Prague, a café or rooftop restaurant, and spaces for educational activities. Yes, almost as important as the program spaces is the roof, which will be a continuation of the public space of a new square, as explained by jury chair Michal Sedláček in yesterday's announcement.

Visualization: BIG
"Many aspects had to be taken into account when selecting the winning design. The site for the philharmonic hall currently complicates the opportunity for people to meet instead of encouraging it, so the emphasis was not only on the architecture and operation of the building, but also on the design of the public spaces in the surrounding area. The Vltava Philharmonic Hall will become a vibrant center of life in Vltavská street – a new city park will stretch eastwards from the building, the south side will open up access to the water, a square will be created on the west side and there will be a view of the new Bubny-Zátory district to the north. The building itself will be accessible from all directions and levels."

Michal Sedláček

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The design by BIG, under partners Bjarke Ingels and Brian Yang, uses the phrase "river to roof" to describe the form of the building, with its distinctive — and recognizably BIG — zig-zag profile. In the words of Bjarke Ingels:

"The Vltava Philharmonic Hall is composed as a meandering journey from riverbank to rooftop. Public flows and belvedere plazas unite the city life of Prague to the music within. Its halls are formed for sight, fine-tuned for sound, and orchestrated for functionality and connectivity. From this rhythmic structure, a symphony of colonnades and balconies extend as platforms for public life. Expressive yet pragmatic, the new Philharmonic will ascend to form a key landmark for Prague – from river to roof."

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In addition to the sloping roofs accessible to the public, another distinctive design feature mentioned by BIG and the jury is the wood that will be used for the ceilings. These "undersides of warm timber from the Bohemian Forest," according to BIG, will "provide balanced acoustics with a natural material, and form an environment designed to strengthen the intimate connection between the audience and orchestra."

The Vltava Philharmonic Hall is part of a larger transformation of brownfield sites in Prague's new Bubny-Zátory district, which will eventually find 25,000 residents moving into 11,000 apartments. The timeline for Vltava Philharmonic Hall is generous, with construction work expected to start in 2027 and the new building to be completed a decade from now, in 2032.

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The complete list of finalists in the two-stage, anonymous competition for the Vltava Philharmonic Hall (in bold are the winner and the four entrants "that ranked high" according to the jury):

ALA + OV-A, MVRDV, OFFICE KGDVS + Christ & Gantenbein, Mecanoo + CHYBIK+KRISTOF, Barozzi Veiga + Atelier M1, Sou Fujimoto Architects, Cobe + Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects, ŠÉPKA ARCHITEKTI, Bjarke Ingels Group, Henning Larsen Architects, Carrilho da Graça Arquitectos, JAJA Architects, Bevk Perović Arhitekti, Petr Hájek Architekti, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Snøhetta, Ateliers Jean Nouvel, David Chipperfield Architects + Jakub Cigler architekti, SANAA.


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