Letter from Hamburg, where the new Elbphilharmonie “cost” homes for 5000 people…

Hamburg is a wonderful city that has a population around 3 times larger than Helsinki, and, like Helsinki, has access to Europe’s waterways that stamp its presence everywhere in the city.

They have a long Hansa history, which has produced a collection of big beautiful red brick warehouses, originally privately built and owned by the merchants who plied their trade for centuries using the port for the tall sailing ships whose fat hulls were filled with barrels and boxes from every corner of the world.

These merchants got rich during these decades, but when containers and giant steel ships took over, these big warehouses fell into neglect. It was then that the city fathers decided to build a modern container port further away from the city and to renovate the dilapidated warehouses back to their former glory after the decades of neglect. They were transformed into offices and homes to create a lovely place to live, to work and for tourists to gloat at with envy. 

And then the grim story of the Elbphilharmonie started, Hamburg’s newly opened music hall. 

On the water’s edge, during the 1960’s an ugly square brick warehouse was built, and 40 years the same city fathers decided to build a music hall and an hotel on top of this building for €200 million. They employed the best and the biggest engineers to design, plan and construct the monument. 10 years later, and at 4 times the planned cost, they managed to get the most ugly and unusual looking building as a music hall and hotel.

It really is ugly, massively ugly, with its heavy brick bottom surrounded by a high balcony going all the its sides, and a 5 star hotel with plastic bubble windows that appear to have melted in the  harsh hot sun. The roof on top looks like a witches’ spiders web.

Every concert of the music hall is sold out with really expensive tickets that many ordinary folk cannot afford, even if they were available. Rich sponsors and corporate clients grab very last ones. 

Given the total cost, which results in a €600 million cost overrun, every resident, from babies, working folk and to the elderly, have been saddled with some €500 extra tax to cover the costs. In perspective this money could have been used for social housing that Hamburg badly needs for some 3000 households! And all of that money could have been recuperated easily from residents who would later buy or rent this new housing. 

The best comment written article about this huge scandal is from some politician who exclaimed “This cost overrun was not so much different from other big infrastructure projects in Germany!”


How dumb can politicians be and how careless of German engineering consultants to deliver such a white elephant to taxpayers.

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