The saga of Elbphilharmonie’s soaring budget and sluggish construction timeline stands in stark contrast to the transparency with which the rest of Hamburg’s HafenCity has been developed. Although there’s still plenty of excitement surrounding the dramatic structure, local residents complain that previous city leaders approved Elbphilharmonie without properly weighing the costs and benefits, and for accepting what turned out to be a wholly unrealistic construction estimate from the contractor that won the bid for the job. Contractors initially estimated that the building would cost about $100 million to build; now, it’s likely to cost at least five times that. And Elbphilharmonie’s escalating costs could put the fate of other proposed buildings at HafenCity, like the Rem Koolhaas-designed science center, in jeopardy.
Now that it’s topped off and most of the windows are in place, Hamburg residents and visitors can finally take a look at the city’s new architectural icon, and it looks pretty spectacular. Earlier this year, the city started giving free tours of the under-construction building. For the first month that tours were offered, 20,000 people signed up for a mere 400 spots in the first tour, indicating how much interest the building has drawn in the city. But it will still be several years before any music is performed in the Grand Hall. Latest estimates have the completion date at 2014 or 2015, and it will likely end up costing more than $500 million – roughly five times the original estimate.