It was the largest building project undertaken by the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna since the construction of the Musikverein building and a design challenge of a very special kind. The project was completed in 2004, opening up new dimensions for the Musikverein in the shape of the Four New Halls.
The need for expansion had been felt for some time before this development took place. Since the present Director, Dr. Thomas Angyan had taken the helm of the organisation in 1988, the number of concert series by the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde had doubled. The flourishing activities of the institution pushed the Musikverein building itself to the limits of its capacity, with particular problems relating to a shortage of rehearsal space. At the end of the 1990s, as many as 120 rehearsals for Musikverein concerts per season were having to take place outside the walls of the Musikverein building itself.
The first development plans thus concerned the construction of a large rehearsal auditorium. In 2000, a decision was taken in this respect through which it was anticipated the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde could take advantage of synergy opportunities which the infrastructure plans of the municipal transport service Wiener Linien presented: The Karlsplatz subway station – right next to the Musikverein building – was to be equipped with a new reversing loop. This would require large-scale construction activities, with which the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde subsequently connected its own building project.
Before long, the Gesellschaft was able to make more ambitious plans than at first anticipated. The efforts of the society’s members and contributions of sponsors, who committed significant sums of money to the development, made it possible not only to design a new rehearsal space but also to begin an expansion project with several new auditoriums. This enabled the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde to fulfil a further urgent wish to extend the programme range on offer and to create space for new ideas to flourish.
The construction project took place between April 2001 and September 2003. No less than 28,000 cubic metres of material were removed from the site and 8,950 cubic metres of concrete were used during the construction. The building extension is c. 61 metres long and up to 21 metres wide, while the surface of the floor level lies 12 metres below street level.
Wilhelm Holzbauer, one of the world’s most renowned architects, found a fascinating solution for this huge design challenge together with his partner Dieter Irresberger. This involved providing each one of the Four New Halls with its own distinct and characteristic appearance, while still linking it aesthetically to the historic Musikverein building. To achieve this, Holzbauer and Irresberger created an optical dialogue: in the largest of the Four New Halls, the “gold” motif was adopted from the Großer Musikvereinssaal and combined with the element of “glass” to translate it into a modern setting. This resulted in the Glass Hall / Magna Auditorium as a new highlight of the institution as a whole. Clearly identifiable basic elements – metal, stone and wood – also lent each of the other new spaces, the Metal, Stone and Wooden Hall / Horst Haschek Auditorium, their characteristic features.