Great Amber concert hall: a new symbol of the city of Liepāja

Late-2015 saw the opening of the Great Amber concert hall in Liepāja, Latvia, an eight-storey building with an area of 14 126 m². It contains three auditoriums: the great hall with 1 000 seats, the chamber hall with 200 and the experimental stage with 120. These are complemented by the Civita Nova art space on the first floor, a hall of mirrors on the sixth floor, a cafe and a restaurant.

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Bird’s eye view of the Great Amber’ concert hall and the Baltic Sea © Indriķis Stūrmanis Bird’s eye view of the Great Amber’ concert hall and the Baltic Sea © Indriķis Stūrmanis

" The completion of the concert hall is a unique historic event and marks the establishment of Liepāja’s new cultural quarter, and thus its cultural identity. Convincing in both architecture and content, this symbolic effect emphasises Great Amber’s connection to the city. It is a new landmark of modern Liepāja. "

Prof. Volker Giencke, Giencke & Company Architects

Great Amber has a complex structure, a unique interior and acoustics created by world leaders in the field. It consists of 12 500 m³ of concrete, 900 tonnes of metal, 1 780 tonnes of reinforcement and 2 300 tonnes of fittings. 

As well as a regional cultural and event centre, Great Amber is home to the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra and the music branch of the Liepāja Music, Art and Design high school. In all, 57 people work at the concert hall.

Overcoming construction challenges

A team of Austrian, German and Latvian experts from 24 firms worked on the construction, overcoming several challenges to finish on time and within budget. When laying the foundations, the builders had to pay special attention to controlling groundwater as the nearby sea, canal and lake, allied to the wind, made flows hard to predict.

Walls at 90° angles to the ground are only found in the central section for the lifts and evacuation shafts, with almost all reinforced concrete and outer load-bearing steel structures at irregular angles. Erecting the framework thus required a high level of engineering expertise.

For assembly of load-bearing columns and walls, surveyors had to be on site every day to get the angle of each section right. Made from rectangular iron bars, outer supports bear the weight of the roof and bolster the walls against the wind. To achieve the planned appearance, all metal joints were welded and the seams rigorously tested.

Awards and benefits for the local economy

The building received the Architizer A+ award in the culture hall/theatre category, the International Architecture Award for best new architecture project and the American Architecture Prize in the multifunctional architecture category, all awarded in the USA in 2016. It came second at the European Concrete Manufacturers Association’s European Concrete Award 2016 and has also won awards at national, regional and municipal level.

Great Amber has brought educational, musical and cultural benefits for Liepāja, as well as giving residents a sense of pride. For businesses, the most tangible contribution comes during events such as concerts, opera performances and conferences, when hotels, guest houses, restaurants, cafes and museums see an influx of customers.

Since Great Amber’s opening, several restaurants and apartment developments have opened or expanded in the area. The tourism offer has grown and regional tourist data show increases in domestic and international visitors of 39 and 24 % respectively, with Lithuania, Germany and Russia the main countries of origin.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “’Great Amber’ concert hall in Liepāja (Latvia)” is EUR 31 201 112, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 12 805 846 through the “Infrastructure and Services” Regional Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date