Building a bright future for classical music

Great public architecture generally expresses eloquently the society which builds it. For much of modern history, it was about the glorification of God. In more recent centuries, politics and power became the stronger focus: think of the mercantile grandeur of the Low Countries, the triumphant classical confidence of Paris, or, in Victorian Britain, of the extraordinary expressions of civic pride that are the industrial powerhouses of Manchester and Birmingham.

In the post-war period, a more egalitarian ethos led to cultural complexes coming to express a city’s sense of self. This was the age of the Royal Festival Hall, Lincoln Center and Finlandia Hall. But more recently, at a time when classical music feels forced to fight its corner for coverage, it seems remarkable – though gratifying – that the concert hall continues to occupy the pinnacle of public architectural ambition.

This year’s Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, last year’s Philharmonie de Paris, and, prior to that, countless examples from Singapore to Gateshead – new concert halls are among .....

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