Few buildings in Szczecin stand out as much for their architecture as the Mieczysław Karłowicz Philharmonic. The amazing building has been in the city since 2014 and guided tours of the building are offered at certain times.
What does the word Philharmonic mean?
Philharmonic comes from the ancient Greek and can be translated roughly as friend and harmony or more broadly as “love of music.” The term is often used as a name component of large orchestras.
In Szczecin, the love of music is very much felt during a visit to the Mieczysław Karłowicz Philharmonic.
A brief history of the Szczecin orchestra
The Filharmonia im. Mieczysława Karłowicza w Szczecinie was founded in 1948 and played its first concert under the direction of Felicjan Lasota. Since 1958 it bears the name of the Polish composer Karłowicz.
In 2004 it was already noticeable, the musicians needed a larger and more modern space for their performances. A suitable building site was sought and a competition was announced for the design of a new concert hall. 24 different proposals were submitted and the jury selected the design by Barozzi/Veiga from Barcelona.
Until 2014, the Szczecin Philharmonic Orchestra played in the hall of the Szczecin City Hall. Then they moved to the newly constructed building.
A new venue is built
The new location for the Szczecin Philharmonic was found on the site where Franz Schwechten’s concert hall had been built in 1884. This had been destroyed in the Second World War and for some years the ruins still stood there.
In April 2011 the construction work for the building began. I found a small video that gives quite a wonderful impression in time lapse.
Although the building was not initially well received by the people of Szczecin, international enthusiasm quickly emerged from the circles of architects. In 2015, the building was awarded the Mies van de Rohe Prize for the best building in 2014.
The Philharmonie now houses more than 12,000 m2 of space on four floors, a symphony hall, a chamber hall, rehearsal halls, a music store, a café, a spacious foyer, artists’ dressing rooms, storage rooms for instruments and offices. As a result, the building now offers sufficient space for a varied range of activities for all age groups.
Visit to the Philharmonic
Even from the outside, the building is something very special. It stands in the middle of the city like a giant white iceberg with large jagged edges. When the sun shines on the building, it glows brightly.
When we entered the building, it first took my breath away. I really had not expected that. One comes into a huge, over 5 floors (plus the height of the peaked ceiling) open white entrance hall. Everything here is white, the floor, the walls, the bar, even the stairs shine in bright white. Some might find it clinical and sterile, in part because the space is nearly empty. To me, it feels delightfully uncluttered and clean. A place where you can concentrate on yourself and block out the world around you.
We still had some time before our German-speaking tour of the house was to start and so it was possible to enjoy this room in peace. On one side there are two narrow and small looking slits, behind which a dark room opens. Only when a man passed by there, I became aware, these openings seemed only small and behind them were the dressing rooms of the house.
On the next side of the room, a spiral staircase leads to the higher floors. We climbed this later during the tour and were able to enjoy a great view of the entrance foyer from there.
Directly next to the stairs, a large slightly lower hanging box extends into the foyer. Below this is the bar / café of the concert hall. Again, because of the enormous height of the interior, it looks as if the area is so shallow that one would have to duck to walk through it. But that, too, is an optical illusion. The area is, of course, high enough that you can comfortably stand underneath it without the fear of being crushed.
Another large white staircase leads up from the checkout area to the second floor of the building.
Small concert hall
First we were taken to the Small Concert Hall. The walls and ceiling in this hall are completely black and it is also called the Moon Hall. About 190 visitors can sit on the white chairs and listen to concerts there.
Big concert hall
After passing through the gallery on the 4th floor with its changing exhibitions, the doors opened for us to the Great Symphony Hall of the Szczecin Philharmonic. In complete contrast to the Small Hall, this one shines in golden tones and is rightly called the Sun Hall. The walls were not only built to provide excellent acoustics. They have also been painstakingly covered with gold-colored foil.
The Great Concert Hall can fit almost 1000 visitors. On the stage there is room for 120 musicians and 110 singers.
Guided tours of the Szczecin Philharmonic Hall
If you want to take part in a guided tour, you can find the current offers on the website of the Szczecin Philharmonic. Mainly, the tours take place in Polish. On some selected dates, however, tours are also offered in German or English.
The tour lasts about 45 minutes and costs per adult 10,- PLN
We booked our ticket online in advance.