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Berlin Philharmonic hopes to perform at home next month after fire damaged landmark building
Germany Berlin Phil 5026381
Pamela Rosenberg, director of the Berlin Philharmonic, addresses the media during a news conference after a fire on Tuesday in the Philharmonic, in Berlin, Wednesday, May 21, 2008. The blaze under the roof of the Berlin Philharmonic's landmark home was completely extinguished, the fire department said Wednesday, and officials were optimistic that damage to the building was minimal. - photo by Associated Press
    BERLIN — The Berlin Philharmonic should be able to resume playing concerts at its landmark home in downtown Berlin as soon as early June, orchestra officials said Wednesday, the day after a fire tore through the building’s roof.
    The blaze broke out below the roof of the famed 1960s building near Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz on Tuesday, sending acrid smoke billowing over the capital.
    Firefighters had to remove about one-quarter of the roof’s metal cladding — some 17,000 square feet — to get at the blaze and put it out, but there was virtually no serious structural damage or harm to the interior of the building, officials said.
    ‘‘There is no danger of collapse, but the roof damage is extensive,’’ said Pamela Rosenberg, the orchestra’s general manager.
    Welding work had been carried out on the roof before the fire broke out, and police were examining that as a possible cause of the blaze.
    There were no injuries in the fire, and musicians and firefighters were able to move some 50 instruments into a neighboring building.
    Inside the building on Wednesday afternoon, the foyer still smelled of smoke, but a small, slowly drying damp area at the base of one pillar was the only visible sign of damage.
    In the main performance hall, plastic sheeting remained over some seats where it had been spread by firefighters during the blaze. However, the precaution turned out to be unnecessary because no water got into the area.
    ‘‘Given the overall scenario, we had a lot of luck,’’ said Yurck Koch, the orchestra’s head technician.
    It will take around three days to remove debris from the roof; after that, workers will be able to begin building a temporary roof to keep the rain out, Rosenberg said. The Philharmonic expects to resume performances in the building on June 2, she said.
    ‘‘We hope that is realistic,’’ she said.
    The overall plan is to have the roof restored in full by winter, but Rosenberg said it was not yet clear whether that goal could be met.
    In the coming weeks, concerts will be performed at other venues, starting this weekend with Hector Berlioz’s ‘‘Te Deum’’ at the open-air Waldbuehne stage near Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.
    Rosenberg said that the orchestra was looking at the positives — that venue provides 12,000 more seats than the Philharmonic concert hall, and she said she hoped they would be filled.
    Some 500 firefighters and police were involved in fighting the blaze, and their families were being offered free tickets as a ‘‘thank you’’ for their work, she added.
    The fire started early Tuesday afternoon, and it took crews hours to rip away the metal roof to get to the source of the flames. Firefighters put out the last of the flames about 9 1/2 hours later, fire department spokesman Jens-Peter Wilke said. However, crews were still scanning the roof with thermal cameras for possible hot spots early Wednesday.
    Orchestra officials said there was no estimate yet on how much repairs would cost.
    The Philharmonic is a landmark in downtown Berlin, with its asymmetrical shape resembling a big-top circus tent jutting into the skyline.


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