Our proposal for the Vltava Philharmonic Hall is designed to offer the city of Prague a new generous musical hub - one that resonates in its urban context, in a timeless, musically inspired expression, enhancing the cultural and musical identity of the city for generations to come.
In Prague, music lives in the land and in the air, on the streets and within the people. Like Smetana’s Vltava , the new Prague Vltava Philharmonic will be the perfect ‘instrument’ - an expression of this place - realized in a new artistic language. Its cresting spires play in harmony with the towers, turrets, steeples and spires that grace the tapestry of the city’s roofscape. The bounding arcade that stretches along the Vltava waterfront suggests a musical cadence found in the structure of the bridges that stitch the city’s two sides together.
Our proposal reaches not just the ambitious sustainability targets of today, but looks forward as well, merging timber construction with traditional methods to craft a hybrid structure that is beautiful, lasting, sustainable, and sound – the perfect ‘instrument’.
Located on the Holesovice peninsula, the site itself is nearly an island, framed by two famous bridges, bordered by the street tram, and anchored by both metro and train stations. Holesovice has undergone a near total transformation in the past decade, with several notable urban regeneration projects already completed. The site for the Philharmonic Hall is the final urban centrepiece and provides a unique opportunity to create a new axis around which the city can pivot.
Our proposal is based on a strong and clear contact with the water, where the planting supports the spaces and brings the lush nature all the way into the immediate context. A terraced ‘grand stair’ landscape steps down to the water, leading visitors through a green living space, where walkers, cyclists, café-goers, commuters, and those there simply to enjoy the sun are given the same space.
The Philharmonic’s most notable urban edge to is to the South, where the new Philharmonic Hall spills onto a terraced green plaza, offering views to the Vltava River, Stvanice Island, and the Old Town beyond. The new square is an integral part of the design, envisioned as a ‘Square of Sound’ (a partner to the ‘Square of Silence’ memorial proposal) that can host pop up musical and cultural events, as well creating an inspiring meeting and gathering place for the district’s residents.
Somewhere between sculpture and machinery, musical instruments are carefully constructed for the quality of sound they emit. Wood is stripped and arced to enclose resonant chambers for string instruments, and skin is stretched tightly over drums to capture sound for percussion.
Our concept for the Vltava Philharmonic derives from this essential link between shape and sound.
The new Philharmonic Hall draws its tactility and materiality from the warmth and resonance of the violin, using mass timber structures wrapping around the large concrete music halls, with a wooden mega-grid carrying the expressive hyper-roof. This grid allows light to pour into the space from above on all sides, bathing the entire interior plaza in light during the day and dramatically glowing from within in the evenings.
At the ground level of the new Philharmonic Hall, overall geometry is light and simple - flowing curves in the landscape surround the building, transitioning into arched facades, with soft concave pockets that invite people in. Up above, with the new silhouette in the skyline, the drama begins - hyperbolic peaks and spires of the hyper-roof add personality and panache, giving the building a rhythmic movement. From every vantage, the Philharmonic Hall is an ever-changing ‘musical’ ensemble of forms and layers.
Using a combination of steel, concrete, and mass timber products we have not only proposed a unique, practical, and low-impact design, but a world-class musical experience for generations to come.
The building proposal consists of three main volumes, each of which are designed as self-stabilizing concrete structures – a ‘box in a box’ concept - featuring concrete walls and concrete cores to minimize sound transmission from outside to inside and vice-versa. Steel trusses structure the large span of the main auditoriums, enabling flexible, effective attachment of lighting equipment, sound screen, acoustic cladding and installations. This will result in efficient material use whilst matching acoustical needs.
A timber hyper-roof structure encloses the halls, and the open internal foyer space, and consists of a colonnade around the perimeter of the structure and roof elements spanning primarily in one direction. Glulam wood columns support the roof and the façade, resisting the horizontal forces from wind pressures. They are restrained horizontally either by slabs or ancillary restraints, braced in couple locations using steel bracing.
The Philharmonic Hall will set a new standard for future buildings: it will be a public, cultural facility that produces more energy than it consumes over its lifespan, including construction and demolition. The ambition is to go 100% fossil fuel-free in operation.