BERLIN PHILHARMONIE, a design study 

The Berlin Philharmonie is home to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and is one of the world’s most acclaimed concert halls for acoustics and architecture.

As part of my experience studying abroad in wonderful Berlin, Germany, I was greatly inspired by the Berlin Philharmonie and took advantage of my time there to take a deeper investigation of its architecture and design. These are a summary of my findings.  

this was a student project, (no affiliation with the Berlin Philharmonie)

It was important to be aware of the time. 

Berlin architect Hans Scharoun won the design competition for Berlin’s new concert hall which started in 1956. 
The Philharmonie’s main hall was inaugurated in .............  

“People always gather in circles when listening to music informally.” - Hans Scharoun

Hans Scharoun’s design for the new Berlin Philharmonie alleviated the classist system, providing everyone an opportunity to enjoy the performance. 

The Berlin Philharmonie is centered around the orchestra. The audience seating is designed around the performers, to create a unifyed experience between the people playing and those viewing. 

The levels of seating are placed strategically so that the audience can view and listen to the performance.

The previous Philharmonie was designed in the traditional manner. The audience seating was placed facing the orchestra at the front of the hall. The hierarchy of seating also contributed to classism, the wealthier people could pay for the better balcony seats.

Breaking away from the past.

Before his demise, Adolf Hitler had a plan to remodel Berlin into a new city, “Welthauptstadt Germania” which reflected his beliefs of National Socialism. Hitler’s Germania was a reflection of his personal totalitarian reign and not representative of the people in Germany. 

After the war the Allies restructured Germany and Berlin, appointing Hans Scharoun as director of the new city plan. Although he did not live long to see all his ideas realized, the Philharmonie is a true testament of how positivity can once again live after trauma.  

The ultimate example of Hitler’s design vision for Berlin lies in his plans for the “Volkshalle”, (People’s Hall). The scale of the building proves how much the hall would not have benefited the people at all, (figures have been provided for scale).

Hitler and his main architect Albert Speer preferred Stripped Classicism. This was a popular type of monumental design at the time, which took classical elements and stripped them of ornament. This provided an affordable way to build, and in Hitler’s case, left room to build at massive scale.

And example of this that actually built was the Reich Chancellery. 


Unity of Space, Music, and Mankind

The Philharmonie breaks away from tradition and brings new form to the monument. There is no excessive use of materials or scale to promote ideas, everything in the design is thoughtful to the Philharmonie’s purpose. Hans Scharoun wanted to create a unified place where everyone could enjoy the orchestra and the performers and audience would feel they were together in the experience.

The Berlin Philharmonie embodies lightness and freedom in that lightness. The interior of the main concert hall shows its complexity, but still does not take away from its grace.


Hitler’s plan for Berlin revolved around a central axis. It is evident in his model that this would have been a very structured, ordered way to move about the city. 

Opposite to a linear method of entry and exit, the Berlin Philharmonie is made up of rotating hexagons that appear to move within its location. There are also multiple ways the building can be entered and exited, providing more possibilities to move in and out.  

“The performance of music and its communal experience...” - Hans Scharoun

Hans Scharoun centered his design around the orchestra and the performance. When you enter the main concert hall of the Philharmonie you are faced with multiple methods of finding your seat, adding to the excitement one feels before a show.

“Design inspired by the very purpose it serves ...”  - Hans Scharoun

The Berlin Philharmonie is an innovation for acoustical design. The overall form is designed for sound from the orchestra to reach the audience. Every detail is developed for this purpose, from the placement of the audience seating to the seats themselves. Additional detail has been taken into consideration for the orchestra; acoustical panels are hung above so that they may also hear themselves playing.