Blaibach Concert Hall Built in perfect harmony

Blaibach Concert Hall
Blaibach Concert Hall | Photo: Edward Beierle

Away from the bustling music scene of the big cities, architect Peter Haimerl has designed a new concert hall for the small community of Blaibach in the Upper Palatinate. It is an architectural wonder and a venue for regional and international music performances.

It all started with the Bürgerhaus, the new community centre built in 2012 with funds from the Bavarian urban development initiative “Ort schafft Mitte” that focuses on urban centres. Blaibach has a population of around 2000 and is situated in the county of Cham in the Upper Palatinate, close to the Czech border. It is a region that benefits from specific funding aimed to counteract economic challenges and demographic decline. However, the actual ideas for the development of the urban centre came from the community itself. Working together with the citizens of Blaibach the Munich-based architect Peter Haimerl designed a project package that included both the community centre and the concert hall, that opened later in 2014.

The concert hall has been solely designed for music performances, with an emphasis on the quality of sound, and is not intended for use as a multifunctional area. The original budget for the project of approximately 1.7 million euro was topped up by private sponsors, other initiatives and through citizen support. Concerts are always being held in the Blaibach concert hall, thanks to the Kulturwald music festival, founded by the German baritone Thomas E. Bauer and pianist Uta Hielscher, this also being a initiative from the region.

Home-grown

A mix of modern aesthetics and archaic power merge into one entity in this monolithic, semi-underground building. With an unusual blend of materials from the region such as carved granite, and with fair-faced concrete and glass the building stands confidently yet in very down to earth manner, boasting modest elegance. The design follows the topography of the village slope and with its tilted shape and slotted walls it is able to implement the special requirements that are so important for the acoustics.
 
  • Konzerthaus Blaibach, Innenraum Foto: Edward Beierle
    Konzerthaus Blaibach, Innenraum
  • Konzerthaus Blaibach, Innenraum Foto: Edward Beierle
    Konzerthaus Blaibach, Innenraum
  • Konzerthaus Blaibach Foto: Edward Beierle
    Konzerthaus Blaibach
  • Konzerthaus Blaibach Foto: Edward Beierle
    Konzerthaus Blaibach
  • Konzerthaus Blaibach Foto: Edward Beierle
    Konzerthaus Blaibach
  • Konzerthaus Blaibach, Innenraum Foto: Edward Beierle
    Konzerthaus Blaibach, Innenraum
  • Konzerthaus Blaibach, Innenraum Foto: Edward Beierle
    Konzerthaus Blaibach, Innenraum
  • Konzerthaus Blaibach, Foyer Foto: Edward Beierle
    Konzerthaus Blaibach, Foyer

The new village square around the Bürgerhaus has been designed in similar materials and colour tone, and from here the visitors descend an open stairway beneath the cube into the wood panelled foyer with cloakroom, bar and sanitary facilities. This area then leads into the actual concert hall. It is remarkable how architect Peter Haimerl has challenged the restricted space to produce such an amazingly spacious hall. The sloping gallery provides seating for some 200 people, the flat stage can accommodate up to 60 musicians. The hall features inclined wall panels that overlap in an irregular pattern. It is the intricate and sophisticated folded design of these concrete walls, made with foam glass aggregate, that helps create the perfect sound.

This new type of material has hitherto only been used in industrial buildings. The sound volume is further enhanced by tone absorbers installed between the folded concrete structures and under the seats, out of sight. In combination with the indirect lighting, that uses LED and other light systems, the porous surface of the concrete creates a spectacular effect. The seats are designed in wire mesh and are affixed to to the open gallery steps by steel fins. Here they appear weightless, almost floating. This exceptional ambience traverses the boundaries between art, architecture and technology.

The exterior and interior merge into a perfect whole

By using the narrative force and symbolic power of architecture and also through skillful experimentation with Blaibach’s topography and historical identity, Peter Haimerl has created an impressive setting with sculptural impact. In his conversion of the old “Blaue Haus” that became Blaibach’s community centre Haimerl already demonstrated how traditional elements can serve as an endless source of inspiration. The concrete-clad well-proportioned building has kept its old features on the inside, with clay brick walls and granite stone cellar. Now, with whitewood floors and doors kept in the traditional parlour style, granite slabs in the entrance area, larchwood windows and chalk painted walls, the old and the new coexist in harmony, enhanced by utilising contemporary, sustainable materials.

Using architectural quality as a catalyser for change is something the people of Blaibach have understood as a promising perspective for their community and a way in which they can preserve their culture. And they are still courageously pressing ahead. The next project will be the careful conversion of the old building “Waidlerhaus” in the centre of Blaibach, to provide accommodation for performing artists, and other houses that are no longer occupied could also be turned into holiday flats.