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Media Art for Grand Opening

Thorsten Bauer devised a striking video installation for the LED wall at the Elbphilharmonie entrance on the occasion of its Grand Opening.

To accompany the inaugural concerts at the Elbphilharmonie, the LED display at the main entrance took on a special appearance: it welcomed the invited guests with an artistic installation. The work focused on the Grand Hall – the final mystery and the heart of the Elbphilharmonie, where audiences can now hear the first concerts.

The installation was developed by Thorsten Bauer, a freelance consultant, designer and the founder of URBANSCREEN, a collective that designs and produces media art and presents it at special locations.

Bauer uses selected pictures of the creative process involved to explain how he approached the project, and assembled individual photos to produce a dynamic installation for the LED display at the entrance that measures 18 x 5 metres.

Thorsten Bauer
Thorsten Bauer © Thorsten Bauer

The Idea

»The idea was to create a warm-hearted welcome while maintaining high artistic quality. The beauty of the Elbphilharmonie itself was an obvious starting point for the inaugural installation: an animated collage made up of photos of the interior and the Grand Hall, an artistically abstracted picture collage of the »birthday child«. The task set was to remix the architecture!

The Recording

»Alone with the Elphi, between Christmas and New Year – in the calm before the storm. On 27 December I had the chance to produce my series of photos in the Elbphilharmonie. I strolled through the Grand Hall, the aisles and the foyer, carried by a unique, almost mystical mood. The video recordings were a by-product reflecting the atmosphere that surrounded me on this day.

At home in a palace

»The world is a different place, seen through the camera lens. You lose some of the distance, and gain depth. Structures and shapes turn into patterns that repeat themselves and occur in countless variations, which in turn engage in dialogue with one another. The similarity of the different scalings is particularly exciting. The milled-out grooves in the slabs of stone resemble the design of the concert hall.

Elbphilharmonie / Grand Hall
Elbphilharmonie / Grand Hall © Thorsten Bauer

»What constitutes the atmosphere in this concert hall? For me this is a graceful and sublime space, but one that also radiates a mood of welcome and closeness. You feel invited in – you feel as if you’re at home in a palace. The thought captivates me, and after three hours behind the lens, my view is nothing if not poetic. The hall is like a natural phenomenon, sublime but unpretentious. The aisles are unpredictable. The grey seats, set asymmetrically into a rock face, resemble gorillas attending a festive animal assembly. The Grand Hall is not trying to be grand – it is. There is no elitist statement here that excludes anyone, simply natural beauty that invites us all to share in it.


»After the photos had been evaluated, a selection was put together to form collages. The collages were imported into the image- and film-editing software After Effects, and were then animated and supplemented with existing graphic animations.

Screenshot After Effects / Thorsten Bauer

From Photo to Film

»The film shows the original footage that was produced. The black areas are the entrance zones and the box office window.

The Result

»It was important that the picture composition fit in well with the existing elements of the entrance area. The compositions incorporate the door and windows as graphic elements. The speed of the animations is geared to the size of the display.

LED wall at the Elbphilharmonie main entrance
LED wall at the Elbphilharmonie main entrance

»I generally used a maximum of three images at a time; the idea was to use as few angles as possible in order for the installation to work solely through the aesthetics of the composition; in this case, a collage of the entrance area, a detail of the organ pipes and the stairway. The animated print is the pre-programmed »ticker« that shows what concerts are playing that evening or other information when necessary.

Installation by Thorsten Bauer on the LED wall at the Elbphilharmonie main entrance
Installation by Thorsten Bauer on the LED wall at the Elbphilharmonie main entrance

»It is precisely the combination with the main entrance that gives the visual concept its impact. The digital image, usually independent of any location, is allocated a specific place again. The installation becomes a unique »original« that only achieves its full effect at this location. In an era when digital media can be reproduced without limit, media art in a specific place has a special appeal.«

Learn more about the LED media wall at the Elbphilharmonie main entrance