Several memorable arch-villains show up in the Book of Mormon. The first we encounter is that famous rival of the tree of life, the Great and Spacious Building. When it plays again its role in our Sunday schools this month, many of us will hear someone bring up Hugh Nibley’s Babylonian skyscrapers. However Ezra Taft Benson taught that the Book of Mormon is for our day, and in 2012 our day is the opening of the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany.
And I beheld a rod or iron, and it extended along the bank of the river.
Hamburg has been redeveloping part of its port on the Elbe as a new quarter called HafenCity.
And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building.
“In the middle of the flow of the river Elbe on approx. 1,700 reinforced concrete piles a building complex is emerging, which, in addition to three concert halls, will encompass a hotel, 45 private apartments and the publicly accessible Plaza.” “The centerpiece of the Elbphilharmonie is also one of the most exciting construction challenges in Europe at the moment: A world-class concert hall at a height of 50 meters with seating for 2,150.”
And it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth. And it was filled with people both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedlingly fine.
“At a height of 37 meters visitors will be treated to a unique 360° panoramic view of the city. Measuring some 4.000 square meters the Plaza will be almost as big as the one in front of the City Town Hall and will be an ideal place for Hamburg’s citizens and tourists, concert-goers and hotel guests to stroll.”
Last summer a Latter-day Saint from Hamburg happened to visit my ward where the missionary who had taught him decades ago lives. I asked him if the saints in Hamburg had noticed the suitability of Elbphilharmonie to play the role of Great and Spacious. He said he’d never heard such a comparison; what people mostly talk about is the nearly half billion Euro price tag. Among the many unusual, striking aspects of the project is the choice to preserve the historical Kaispeicher dock warehouse for the structure’s lower levels. As one cynic noted a year and a half ago, “The great and spacious building is decadent art built on commerce? Nibley’s spirit must feel vindicated.” Or as my ward’s Sunday school president said when I ran it by him, a concert hall that looks like something out of a Batman movie.
If you think this is what a classroom near you could use, high-resolution files of the above renderings by Herzog & de Meuron are available that can be printed on 11″x17″ cardstock at a local shop such as Staples for two dollars. (link)