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Great Amber Concert Hall

GREAT AMBER – Concert Hall as a new landmark of Liepaja. Designed by Graz architect Volker Giencke, the Great Amber Concert Hall is due to be inaugurated on 7 November 2015 in Liepaja, Latvia, thus finalising the first – and most momentous phase – of this multistage project envisioning the construction of a cultural urban district.

Great-Amber-Concert-Hall-By-Volker-Giencke-Company-Architects-02-Indrikis-Sturmanis-759x374 Great Amber Concert Hall / Volker Giencke & Company Architects

© Indrikis Stūrmanis

Construction and thermal building physics:

The Concert Hall is a concrete sculpture, cladded in and enveloped by a self-supporting variably tilted glazed façade. This façade consists of an interlocked wide flat steel structure that connects with the concrete sculpture in the roof area (resting upon the concrete sculpture). Structurally, the building is a reinforced concrete folded plate structure with a double-shell glazed façade and interior steel construction.

From a physical point of view, the double-shell property of the façade enhances its thermal energy balance by approx. 10° to 15°C. Due to the existence of thermal overpressure between the outer and inner façade, soiling of the façade’s intermediate space can be largely ruled out. The approx. 80cm wide space between both façades is equipped with grids for service purposes. The outer façade made of frameless laminated safety glass containing an intermediate fourfold foil is held in place by steel glass clamps supplied by the Austrian Längle company. These clamps guarantee that the threefold wind force is withheld, as compared to a normal wind force, e.g. in Austria. The inner façade consists of transparent double-glazing with bonded vertical joints.

Great-Amber-Concert-Hall-By-Volker-Giencke-Company-Architects-03-Indrikis-Sturmanis-759x535 Great Amber Concert Hall / Volker Giencke & Company Architects

© Indrikis Stūrmanis

The lighting concept:

A combination of four differently coloured foils, whose light spectrum was ascertained by Innsbruckbased Bartenbach company in many tests, yields a range of light reflections from yellowish-white to orange and reddish brown, depending on light incidence and reflection of the amber coloured façade. To the onlooker outside, the Concert Hall with its surrounding spaces resembles an insect encapsulated in a piece of amber.

One special feature is the lighting of the stage area in the Concert Hall. Normally, concert halls are always dark, as they have no access to daylight. Great Amber project in Liepaja, however, responds to the special wish of the principle conductor to be able to conduct by daylight. Fourteen so-called light pipes, each with a diameter of over one metre, ensure that the concert hall receives sufficient daylight. The interior of these light pipes consists of a highly reflective steel lining which augments natural light to such an extent that a unique spatial atmosphere is created when the sun shines, filling the space with brilliantly intense, yet evenly distributed daylight. When the weather is cloudy, the pipes provide diffuse, shadow-free daylight, too, thus conjuring up various moods and effects inside.

During the White Nights in summer, when the sun sets briefly, evening concerts can take place in daylight. With the aid of a black out mechanism, light incidence can be regulated gradually. Besides achieving an optical effect, daylight illumination also has a practical purpose. No artificial light is needed for orchestra rehearsals largely taking place during the day, thus considerably saving energy costs. Moreover, since it is a multi-purpose venue, the Concert Hall is also suitable for congresses and festive events held during the day.

Great-Amber-Concert-Hall-By-Volker-Giencke-Company-Architects-04-Indrikis-Sturmanis-759x395 Great Amber Concert Hall / Volker Giencke & Company Architects

© Indrikis Stūrmanis

Great-Amber-Concert-Hall-By-Volker-Giencke-Company-Architects-05-Indrikis-Sturmanis-759x537 Great Amber Concert Hall / Volker Giencke & Company Architects

© Indrikis Stūrmanis

The acoustic concept:

The acoustics concept was developed together with Müller-BBM, Munich. The grand Concert Hall has a seating capacity of over 1000. Its acoustically effective volume is around 11,200 m³. When the hall and the orchestra podium are fully occupied, reverberation time still reaches 1.8 to 2.0 seconds, increasing again towards the lower frequencies, thus lending the necessary warmth to the sound. Perfect conditions for classical concert performances. With its tiers and balconies, the form of the hall follows the classic terraced vineyard pattern, thus enabling intimate proximity to the artists on the podium while everyone in the auditorium still enjoys the full spatial acoustics, no matter where they sit. Filigree decorative elements on the ceilings and walls effect a diffuse blend of acoustics for wellbalanced sound quality without excessive clarity.

The Chamber Music Hall has a seating capacity of 180 and an acoustically effective volume of 1200 m³, guaranteeing well-balanced and sophisticated sound quality at chamber music performances.

Behind large white acoustically transparent wall coverings made of fabric, variable sound absorbent curtains are used to reduce long natural reverberation times in both halls.

Together with permanently installed public address systems, this type of sound absorption ensures very good speech and consonant intelligibility in both halls. It is therefore possible to use the concert halls, especially the larger one, for non-musical events such as conferences, lectures and congresses.

Great-Amber-Concert-Hall-By-Volker-Giencke-Company-Architects-08-Indrikis-Sturmanis-759x374 Great Amber Concert Hall / Volker Giencke & Company Architects

© Indrikis Stūrmanis

Great-Amber-Concert-Hall-By-Volker-Giencke-Company-Architects-09-Volker-Giencke-786x1200 Great Amber Concert Hall / Volker Giencke & Company Architects

© Volker Giencke

Stage – Technic:

The orchestra pit of the Concert Hall consists of a vertical mobile orchestra platform. Should it be necessary to enlarge the platform substantially from 60m² to 230m² in order to accommodate a full-size orchestra, this can be done by dismantling the first three rows of seats in the stalls. In that way, it is possible to perform maximum-size orchestra and choir works. For various events such as congresses or balls, the floor of the Concert Hall can be brought to a single level by mechanically elevating the orchestra platform. The lower stepped stalls are lifted to stage level with the aid of lifting equipment.

In order to be able to cope with the many different technical requirements of various scopes of use, the installation of a multi-functional grid containing attachment points, freely positionable point hoists and permanently installed lifting frame hoists has been planned for the acoustic reflector above the orchestra and stage platform areas.

The acoustic reflector (90m²) above the auditorium is mounted permanently, while the height of the reflector above the platform (140m²) can be altered according to acoustic requirements. Decorations and technical equipment such as screens, sound reflectors and loudspeakers, etc. are moved to the technical level in the ceiling area using machine hoists.

Great-Amber-Concert-Hall-By-Volker-Giencke-Company-Architects-11-Indrikis-Sturmanis-804x1200 Great Amber Concert Hall / Volker Giencke & Company Architects

© Indrikis Stūrmanis

Volker Giencke & Company Architects:

GREAT AMBER is the name of the city’s new Concert Hall. With 1024 seats, it is the largest concert hall of the Baltic. The decision to build it was made back in 1896 (!), and in 2015, the concert hall finally became reality.

Great-Amber-Concert-Hall-By-Volker-Giencke-Company-Architects-12-Indrikis-Sturmanis-759x569 Great Amber Concert Hall / Volker Giencke & Company Architects

© Indrikis Stūrmanis

Volker Giencke & Company Architects from Graz, Austria, won the international competition towards the end of 2003. Already exhibited at the Biennale of Venice 2004, “Great Amber” is a monolithic, cone-shaped, slightly contorted structure with a transparent, amber-coloured facade. This facade envelops the irregular folded work of the concrete structure. According to legend, Liepaja is the city where the wind was born. That is why we designed the building to “lean against the wind”.

Amber is intriguingly transparent, especially when it encapsulates an insect – as if it were protecting and caring for a living thing. By comparison, the double-skin façade of the concert hall forms the envelope that provides a microclimate in which the different functions are included as spatial implants: the grand concert hall, the chamber music hall, the experimental stage, music club, and music school, etc. as well as the “Civita Nova” as a performance venue and stage for the people of Liepaja.

Great-Amber-Concert-Hall-By-Volker-Giencke-Company-Architects-13-Great-Amber-759x506 Great Amber Concert Hall / Volker Giencke & Company Architects

© Great Amber

We also developed the acoustic concepts together with Prof. Karlheinz Müller /Müller BBM-Munich, and achieved excellent results, with acoustics based on the principal of an oval, terraced vineyard. Helmholtz-resonators and a very large, adjustable sound reflector support the acoustic project.

Light plays a key role of Great Amber too. Reaching high above the roof, 14 mirror-finished reflective tubes flood the concert hall with daylight, creating a unique atmosphere inside.

The concert hall can also be adapted for congresses, exhibitions and receptions by elevating the orchestra pit and the stalls.

Great-Amber-Concert-Hall-By-Volker-Giencke-Company-Architects-14-Aigars-Prusis-759x413 Great Amber Concert Hall / Volker Giencke & Company Architects

© Aigars Prusis

As the budgetary problems were somewhat solved, fatefully the economic crises happened in 2008. The construction costs were halved. Only in 2013 was the start of construction. Both the height of the construction costs and the construction period of 2 years have not been exceeded.

Besides designing unique architecture and equipping the hall with one of the very best acoustics for classical concerts, it had always been our ambition to give Liepaja and its residents a fresh cultural identity with this new concert hall. With the completion of the concert hall as construction will be established Liepaja’s new cultural quarter, and thus its cultural identity as a unique historic event. Convincing in both architecture and content, this symbolic effect emphasises ”Great Amber’s” connection to the city. It is a new landmark of modern Liepaja.

Great-Amber-Concert-Hall-By-Volker-Giencke-Company-Architects-15-Aigars-Prusis-759x531 Great Amber Concert Hall / Volker Giencke & Company Architects

© Aigars Prusis

Project Data:

Project name: Great Amber
Location: Schönbrunngasse 73, 8010 Graz, Austria
Coordinates: 56.511422, 21.010728
Type: Dance / Music Center
Gross floor area: 16,523 sqm
Building volume: 82,400 m³
Building height: 30 m

Multifunctional Center:

  • Concert Hall of Liepaja Symphony Orchestra: 1,024 seats
  • Chamber Hall: 154 seats
  • Music School of Liepaja
  • Public premises: Civita Nova, Experimental Stage & Music Club, Café & Bars

Status: Built
Building Costs: 28.5 Mio Euro
Completion Date/Year: 2015
Visit Design Museum Holon’s website: here


  • 2016 – Architizer A+ Awards – Typology Categories: Hall / Theater – Popular Choice Winner

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: n/a
Architects: Volker Giencke & Company Architects – Schönbrunngasse 73, 8010 Graz, Austria
Partner architect: SIA Arhitekta J. Pogas Birojs – Astra & Juris Poga, Riga
General planner: Giencke & Company – Latvija PS, Riga
Planning: Volker Giencke & Company, Graz
Project management: Petra Friedl
Acoustics: Müller BBM, Karlheinz Müller, Munich/Planegg
Stage Technic: Bühnenplanung Walter Kottke, Bayreuth
Structural engineer: Johann Birner, Graz
Building technology concept: Altherm Engineering, Hans Haugeneder, Baden/Vienna
Lighting designer: Bartenbach Lichtlabor, Christian Bartenbach, Innsbruck
Landscape planning: Paul Giencke, Berlin
Text Description: © Courtesy of Volker Giencke & Company Architects, Great Amber
Images: © Indrikis Stūrmanis, Aigars Prūsis, Merks Ltd, Volker Giencke & Company Architects, Great Amber

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Great Amber Concert Hall / Volker Giencke & Company Architects
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