Andermatt Concert Hall by Studio Seilern


Chris Foges
Roland Halbe, Kanipak Photography

Striking up the fanfare opening bars of Mozart’s ‘Symphony No. 34 in C major, k. 338’, the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra signalled not only the inauguration of a new mid-size concert hall in the Swiss mountain town of Andermatt, but also that architect Studio Seilern and its client had passed their own test: to build a hall capable of supporting the world’s finest classical musicians.

To have achieved this is remarkable as the concert hall was an afterthought for the urban extension in which it sits, and the venue has been shoehorned into a small and complicated site. It occupies a basement-level concrete box originally intended as a convention centre attached to an adjacent hotel. That hotel, and a few apartment blocks, are the first completions in a large development intended to alter the economic character of the former garrison town, recently vacated by the Swiss military.


The height of the roof canopy allows fire and refuse trucks to pass beneath.

Local authorities initially approached Egyptian resort developer Samih Sawiris to act as a tourism consultant. In a competitive market, he stressed the importance of thinking big, says Vanessa Kuhn of development company Andermatt Swiss Alps. As the town lacked the resources to invest at the requisite scale, “He said ‘Sell me a million square metres and I will think big on your behalf”. The scheme now taking shape comprises a mix of apartments, chalets and hotels, built over a site-wide podium to which all parking and traffic is confined, and sits next to a golf course.

The late decision to incorporate a concert hall reflects both Sawiris’ own “life-long passion for classical music”, and the fact that cultural offerings are effective in attracting attention, and visitors: established Alpine rivals such as Gstaad and Verbier also have successful summer music festivals.


The development sits on a site-wide parking podium, which rises to the same height as an adjacent elevated roadway. The ‘basement’ concert hall is thus at natural ground level

London-based Studio Seilern was approached as it was already working on a nearby mountain restaurant, but principal Christina Seilern also had considerable experience in the design of performance venues including Leicester’s Curve Theatre, completed while she was director of Rafael Viñoly Architects’ London office. By the time Seilern joined the “whirlwind, eigh­teen-month project”, the low-grade box that was to hold the concert hall had already been completed. She advised that while the area of the proposed room was just large enough, its volume was insufficient for orchestral music, and took the client to Berlin’s Pierre Boulez Saal – which has the same plan-area – to get a sense of what is required by world-class performers. Seilern also introduced Brussels-based Kahle Acoustics, with whom she has collaborated for 20 years, and whose work includes Jean Nouvel’s Philharmonie de Paris.

Wall linings are angled to manipulate the reflection of sound, and contain acoustic absorption. This treatment is augmented by an electro-acoustic system and movable louvres concealed above the stage.

A single significant move ­– popping up the roof of the hall, so that it resembles a free-standing pavilion – both increased the volume from 2000 to 5,340 cubic metres, and gave the public building a visible presence. Working within limits imposed by an existing zoning plan required a cantilevered ‘back-pack’ to the rear that squeezes in a little more volume and seating. To the front, meanwhile, the roof projects over a curving glass wall that allows audiences to look out to distant peaks, and passers-by to look in. Seilern imagines winter concert-goers gazing up at flurries of snow. “You have music, you have the elements; you are in the mountains and you feel it”.


Inside, fibreglass acoustic reflectors hang in the space like a sculpture. Wall-linings and balcony fronts of slatted timber are composed in origami folds to give optimal acoustic conditions – and conceal structure and ducts. “The softness of the wood and the lightness of its colour emphasise the peacefulness of the space”, says Seilern. Retractable seating gives flexibility, with audiences ranging between 500 and 650, and up to 75 performers on stage.


Entrance stair and foyer with acrylic-lined pleated wall concealing air-handling equipment

The language of folds and angled planes has been extended to the circulation areas, where walls are lined in a variety of materials. But here the inherited conditions are harder to disguise: the principal entrance stair, which descends from a humble structure separated from the pavilion, does not contribute to a sense of occasion, and the foyer – squeezed between the hall and the hotel basement – is somewhat awkward, though improved by the introduction of toplight. The requirement for musicians to pass though the foyer, mingling with the audience, was dictated by circumstance, but is something that Seilern has used before, and enjoys.


But the most important thing, of course, is how the hall sounds, and the evidence of the inaugural concert by 46 musicians is that it performs very well acoustically. “For us it’s very direct”, says a viola player for the Berlin Philharmonic, “but I think it sounds good in the room.” The hall is “surprisingly loud for a mid-sized hall, but not overwhelming”, noted one classical music critic. “The sound is warm, clean and lucid, so that although a symphony orchestra produces greater volume than expected, the woodwinds playing softly are still distinct”. Wrapped in sound, bathed in daylight and gazing out at Alpine peaks, it is very easy to forget that you are sitting where the project started – in a concrete box in an underground car park.

Download Drawings


Studio Seilern Architects
Acoustic consultant
Kahle Acoustics
Theatre consultant
Ducks Sceno
Structural engineer
MEP, contractor
Landscape design
Fire consultant
Lighting design
Michael Josef Heusi
Andermatt Swiss Alps, BESIX

Fixed seats, retractable tribune
Acrylic foyer wall
Seen, Acrylic Couture
Mobile bar
Door handles
Glutz, Salto
Glass facade