BIG wins global competition for National Philharmonic Hall in Prague

National Philharmonic Hall

In a live broadcast, the City of Prague today unveiled BIG’s design for the first national concert hall in over 100 years: The Vltava Philharmonic Hall. The new concert hall will become the home of the world-class philharmonic for 1800+ audiences, celebrating the Czech music tradition and cementing the country as a cultural capital in Europe.

Located at the intersection between the Vltava riverfront and Prague’s Cultural Mile, the Vltava Philharmonic Hall will connect the Old Town’s traditional cultural scene with the Holešovice neighborhood’s modern art scene and become a new civic heart for Prague and the surrounding public realm. The proposal was chosen among a total of 19 anonymous global entries, including invited proposals from Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Snøhetta, Ateliers Jean Nouvel, David Chipperfield Architects, and SANAA.

An essential public building for the Holešovice district and a new focal point for Prague, the new Vltava Philharmonic extends horizontally and vertically in all directions to create key urban connections and form a recognizable landmark for surrounding communities near and far. Ascending from the Vltava River to the skyline of Prague, a series of grand public plazas will become a new symbol of inclusionary architecture, welcoming the multitude of Prague’s vibrant urban life to flow across, through, under and over the new concert hall.

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.” Bjarke Ingels, Founder & Partner, BIG.

A contemporary extension of Prague’s dramatic urban topography, the Vltava Philharmonic Hall is composed as a cascade of outdoor destinations from the waterfront on the river to the city’s iconic skyline. By raising and lowering the corners of the building at multiple touch points, the public spaces connect and allow activities to spill in and out of the building on every side: towards the river, the square, the street, and the alley. Visitors are drawn in from all forms of arrival, with carefully chosen programs inviting them to explore the music venues inside or climb the elegant, arced roofs of the Hall.

On a personal note this project may be one of the most important for me as an architect and as a Dane. The architect Jørn Utzon is a national hero in Denmark, less for the work he got to realize at home, but more for his work on the Sydney Opera House on the other side of the planet. He showed the world how modern architecture could embody forms and reanimate traditions that had long been replaced by the international style of modern boxes – and in doing so he captured the identity of a continent and the imagination of the world.

For Prague we have attempted to imagine a building that is inspired by the journey of its namesake River and informed by the three-dimensional complexity of its very urban site. The result is a three-dimensional public space – part musical instrument, part logistical machine, part topography, part sculpture. I truly hope this project can grow to become a beloved space for the citizens of Czech Republic and a welcome addition to the iconic silhouette the city of Prague.” Bjarke Ingels, Founder & Partner, BIG.

The roofs are conceived as a continuation of the grand public plaza at the foot of the building. The undulating stepped form of the roofs allows visitors to meander to the summit of the building, as if climbing a hill. Slender vertical colonnades support the building’s roof terraces while undersides of warm timber from the Bohemian Forest provide shade and shelter. A space to sit and to gather, spaces for informal outdoor performances and views inward to the Philharmonic’s lively musical environment.

Arriving in the grand foyer, guests are greeted by a striking interior inspired by Czech Glass Artists which lead them into the music venues – the more versatile Prague and Holešovice Halls or the main concert venue The Vltava Hall – which will bring a truly contemporary music experience to Prague. Arranged like petals of a pinecone turned inside out, the seats of Prague Hall are rotating within the compactness of a perfect square.

The seating rakes meet at their corners to allow physical connectivity between every seat in the audience, providing a greater sense of unity and shared experience. Warm timber interiors provide balanced acoustics with a natural material, and form an environment designed to strengthen the intimate connection between the audience and orchestra. Beyond being a major cultural destination for Prague, the building is crafted to maximize its potential to host external uses and special events.

The new Vltava Philharmonic Hall will be a symbol of openness, accessibility, and exploration. From the Vltava square, streets ascend upward connecting interior balconies with exterior colonnades and terraces. Like eighth, quarter, half and whole notes, the steps the benches, façade, and colonnade are perfectly on beat offering its resident orchestras effective and extroverted rehearsal areas, while bringing the audiences within the halls closer to the source in an environment that is both majestic and intimate.” Brian Yang, Partner in Charge, BIG

The venues are carefully designed to maximize flexibility for a range of uses – from the boldness of contemporary music styles to theater performances and digital exhibitions. At the buildings summit, an elegant hyperbolic structure spans over the Vltava Hall and forms the iconic ceiling of restaurant and event ballroom framing views of the historic city center of Prague and becoming a major destination for social gatherings of all kinds. Source by BIG- Bjarke Ingels Group.

  • Location: Prague, Czech Republic
  • Architect: BIG- Bjarke Ingels Group
  • Partners in Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Brian Yang
  • Project Leader: Shane Dalke
  • Project Manager: Luca Nicoletti
  • Project Team: Sarkis Sarkisyan, Giulia Orlando, Matthew Oravec, Giulia Vanni, Jan Magasanik, Jeremias Sas Iros, Jonathan Chester, Khaled Magdy Zaki Ahmed Elfeky, Sorcha Burke, Clara Elma Margareta Karlsson, Mads Primdahl Rokkjær, Ondrej Slunecko, Tania-Cristina Farcas, Polina Galantseva, Yanis Amasri Sierra, Paula Madrid
  • BIG Landscape: Giulia Frittoli, Eleanor Gibson, Jialin Liang
  • Collaborators: Theatre Projects & Nagata Acoustic (Acoustics), Buro Happold (Engineering), AED (Local Arch/Engineering), ETC (Transport), Systematica (Mobility), Front (Facades)
  • Client: Prague Institute of Planning and Development
  • Size: 49,715 m2
  • Year: 2022
  • Images: Courtesy of BIG- Bjarke Ingels Group