AL_A Studio Has Won the Belgrade Philharmonic Concert Hall Architectural Design Competition

Following a rigorous, competitive, and transparent process, the Amanda Levete Architects team (AL_A) from London has been selected as a winner of the international architectural design competition for the concept design of the future Belgrade Philharmonic Concert Hall, to be located in New Belgrade, next to the Palace of Serbia, in Block 13

Ivan Tasovac, the long-time director of the Belgrade Philharmonic, started work on the idea of the new Belgrade Philharmonic Concert Hall more than a decade ago, believing it to be necessary not only for the progress of the leading orchestra in the region, but also as a new symbol of Belgrade and Serbia and a crossroads of the world.

Belgrade Philharmonic Concert Hall is the biggest cultural investment in the region for decades. Located next to the historic Palace of Serbia in New Belgrade, the project is an extraordinary commitment to building a brighter, more sustainable future for the city, according to the vision of Ivan Tasovac. With multiple performance, rehearsal and creative spaces including a symphonic concert hall with 1,600 seats, the Hall will be the first of its kind in the Balkans: an internationally recognised platform for world class musical performance contributing to the social, economic and environmental development of Serbia.

In 2021 the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) launched an international design competition on behalf of the Government of Serbia in partnership with the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Culture and Information, City of Belgrade and the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, targeting the world’s most renowned architecture firms. 37 applications were received from 15 countries, with eight candidates invited to proceed to the next stage.

An international jury comprising architects, concert hall and competition experts, as well as representatives of the organising bodies, assessed designs developed to a detailed brief and technical concepts drawn up by strategic arts and culture planning consultants Arup, and the Plan of Detailed Regulation of the City of Belgrade. In the end, six proposals were received and evaluated by the jury. The overview of the submitted six proposals is available on the UNDP Serbia website.

Darko Krstic, acting director of the Belgrade Philharmonic, says ‘Many years ago, with tireless and fearless enthusiasm, our former and dearly departed director Ivan Tasovac, embarked on a decades-long dream – to build a magnificent home for the Belgrade Philharmonic, creating an internationally recognized centre for music, a regional hub for culture and the arts, and a new symbol of Belgrade and Serbia. We are delighted with AL_A’s design, one that not only celebrates the uniqueness of our orchestra, but which provides an accessible, special, and attractive venue for social gatherings in the Serbian capital – a place that celebrates the lifestyle of Belgrade as a European metropolis and a new home that Belgrade Philharmonic deserves.’

Amanda Levete, principal of AL_A, says: ‘You couldn’t dream of a better site than this to message Serbia’s vision for the future. The magnificent setting of Usce Park, on the banks of the River Danube, sends a powerful message about transforming and rewilding our cities to make them greener, more beautiful spaces. The Concert Hall will be an expression of harmony between nature, architecture and music, at a pivot point in Europe where East meets West. It will be a place where people from all places and cultures, of all ages and abilities, come together to delight in music from every genre.’

Ana Brnabić, Prime Minister of Serbia, says: ‘The Belgrade Philharmonic Concert Hall is the largest cultural infrastructure projects in Serbia, and the region, and one of the largest in Europe itself. I am proud that this a decades-long dream of our professional musicians, young talents, music lovers and also people of Serbia, is finally coming true in such a beautiful shape. I believe that this Hall will be one of the greatest cultural legacies of this Governement. Investing in culture and in education is crucial for setting the pillars of a succesful and strong modern country. This is something we have began with numerous similar cultures projects. This hall is most definitely going to become a new landmark of Belgrade and attract visitors and tourists to our country. Furthermore, with its quality programs it will enrich our citizens’ cultural life. I strongly believe that it will become another regional hub for making contacts and knowledge exchange, with the flow of creativity, ideas and experience of both domestic and foreign artists’.

AL_A is the award-winning architecture studio founded by the RIBA Stirling Prize-winning architect Amanda Levete. Completed projects include the Victoria & Albert Museum Exhibition Road Quarter in London and the Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology in Lisbon.

AL_A lead an international team including cultural consultants Brand New World from Zurich, landscape designers Vladimir Djurovic LA, engineers AFA Consult and local architects Zabriskie. They join Arup who continue their role in acoustic and theatrical design.

As the next step, the AL_A team will work on the development of the technical documentation, divided into three phases, in line with the Serbian Law on construction and planning.

AL_A: a short description of the project

Belgrade Philharmonic Concert Hall is a significant landmark project for the City of Belgrade and Serbia. The project is the biggest cultural investment in the region for decades, positioned on an important site with an incredibly rich history – next to the Palace of Serbia, at the confluence of two great European rivers and overlooking the wilderness of Great War Island. It is an extraordinary demonstration of Belgrade’s ambitious vision for its future.

The landscape of the River Danube and the parkland setting is our starting point. Using water to reflect the building and surrounding nature evokes the marshland that originally allowed the Serbian people to flourish here. Re-wilding the park as a setting for the new Concert Hall sends a progressive message about the need to transform our cities and make them greener, cleaner and more beautiful. Now more than ever, the tensions between nature and cities must be reconciled. We do this here by imagining the Belgrade Philharmonic Concert Hall as an expression of harmony. Harmony between building and landscape, between east and west, between old and new, between generations and between cultures.

The Belgrade Philharmonic Concert Hall comprises four main venues – a large performance hall, recital hall, creative hub and podium stage – each with a different character, celebrating different musical genres, attracting different audiences and encouraging diverse activities. The four venues encircle a social space that forms the heart of the Belgrade Philharmonic Concert Hall, with shared back of house facilities positioned below the newly created town square. Through this arrangement, we create a building with no front and no back resulting in an architectural panorama. The building and the new shared social space at its heart gather under a draping canopy that spans each venue, resting softly in between. Through this expressive form, the building speaks of the movement of music. The materiality of this envelope will create a rippling effect that mirrors the dappled waters of the River Danube, reflecting the changing landscape through the seasons, and signalling a new monument of culture.