Façade facing Berlin’s Französische Strasse by Richard Paulick, 1952 © Archiv Staatsoper
Construction after WW2 © Berlinische Galerie
Following its destruction in World War II, the building that today houses the Pierre Boulez Saal and the Barenboim-Said Akademie was redesigned by Richard Paulick in the Neoclassical style as a depot for the sets of Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden—a function that it fulfilled from the early 1950s through 2010.
In June 1964, 21-year-old Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez, then 39, made their joint Berliner Philharmoniker debut at the recently inaugurated Philharmonie, performing Béla Bartók’s First Piano Concerto. It was these two artists’ first collaboration. In 1980, Daniel Barenboim and the Orchestre de Paris premiered the orchestral version of Boulez’s Notations. That same year, Boulez first met Frank Gehry in Los Angeles while working with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Pierre Boulez with Daniel Barenboim at Abbey Road Studios, London. c.1967 © Lebrecht Media
Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra © Monika Rittershaus
Daniel Barenboim and the Palestinian literary scholar Edward W. Said first met in the lobby of a London hotel in 1992. Seven years later, they founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with the aim to promote a dialogue between cultures of the Middle East. The orchestra, whose members are from Israel, Palestine, and other Arab countries, gave its first concert in Weimar, Germany, and has since performed around the world. In 2002, Barenboim and Said published the book Parallels and Paradoxes, a collection of conversations about music and society. Architect Frank Gehry was an early advocate of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and its ideals— a connection that led to his generous support of the creation of the Pierre Boulez Saal.
The Barenboim-Said Akademie was founded in Berlin in 2012 and took up operations in 2015 with a pilot class, before the building had been finished. Led by the same ideas that form the backbone of the activities of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Akademie focuses on intercultural communication. With the renovation of the former depot of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, a home was found for the Akademie—78,000 cubic feet of concrete, 700 tons of steel, and countless hours of work gave new life to old walls.
Barenboim-Said Akademie © Volker Kreidler
Pierre Boulez Saal, February 2017 © Volker Kreidler
Only steps away from the Humboldt University, the Foreign Office, and the Humboldt Forum, young musicians, primarily from the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, have been studying at the Barenboim-Said Akademie since the fall of 2016. The Pierre Boulez Saal opened in March 2017 with a concert of the newly founded Boulez Ensemble conducted by Daniel Barenboim. Ever since, the building has been a space in which music, innovation, history, scholarship, and culture meet every day. The first class of students has since graduated with their bachelor’s degrees. The hall hosts approximately 150 events per season.