A Royal Opening for Queen Elisabeth Hall

After seven years in the making, Antwerp’s Queen Elisabeth Hall hosted a gala opening night on 26 November in the presence of Queen Mathilde of Belgium. The audience, including our project team, enjoyed performances of orchestral and amplified music as well as presentations highlighting the significance of the Hall to the cultural identity of the City.

Our founding partners, Ian Simpson and Rachel Haugh, had the honour of being introduced to the Queen and other important guests prior to the evening’s performances by resident orchestra, the deFilharmonie (Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra) and Belgian rock/pop group Hooverphonic, who were the last act to play in the former hall prior to its demolition in 2012. Although parts of the multi-functional venue are still under construction, the Hall itself received glowing reviews from guests and musicians, especially for its outstanding acoustics.

The Times gave the first night a four-star review stating that “simplicity was the key” to the Hall’s success and “best of all, it sounds good.”

The Hall, embedded within a complex of historic buildings, is set to build a reputation as one of Europe’s finest symphonic concert venues while it also provides the City with a wonderful new public place. The earlier 1950’s fan-shaped hall, the second on the site, suffered from poor acoustics and also offered a cheerless visitor experience, circulation was confused with little sense of arrival or occasion. The new shoe-box configuration, developed with American acoustician Larry Kirkegaard, allowed the creation of an atrium space that floods the foyers with natural light, orientates audiences with the Hall and integrates the venue’s other activities.

The whole project is due to complete early in 2017.