Copenhagen Opera House
Henning Larsen Architects

September 16, 2004 /

Copenhagen, Denmark

Photo: arcspace

Danish shipping magnate Mærsk McKinney Møller personally handed over the new Opera House, his gift to the Danish state, on October 1, 2004. The Opera House, used by the Royal Theater, will host large-scale opera and ballet productions.

The Opera House is situated on Dock Island in Copenhagen Harbor, on axis with Amalienborg, the Royal Residence, as counterpart to Frederik's Church, forming the termination points of the east-west axis from the harbor and across Amalienborg Square. New 17 meter wide canals have been dug on both sides of the building accentuating the placement of the Opera House on an island.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace


The front of the house is visually integrated in the harbor space, whereas the back of the building, designed as a lower building block, relates to the buildings in the area and to the new apartment blocks planned on the north and south side of the building.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

A grand arrival Plaza, covered by the 32 meter long cantilevered roof, welcomes the audience approaching by boat or from the wide harbor promenade. The building is clad in a golden limestone, the curved 4-story Foyer in glass, with horizontal steel bands.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

From the arrival Plaza three revolving doors lead to the four-story high light filled Foyer paved with Sicilian marble. Balconies and walkways, with magnificent views of the harbor and the city, lead to the main auditorium; the heart of the building.

Photo: arcspace

Photo courtesy HLT

Photo courtesy HLT

The sculptural Auditorium, nicknamed "the Conch", has the appearance of floating in the Foyer. The exterior walls, covered in a warm ahorn, stand in sharp contrast to the curved glass and steel facade of the Foyer.

Photo courtesy HLT

The main auditorium, with seating in the traditional horseshoe form, seats approximately 1,500. The balconies are are clad in light ahorn, the walls in dark ahorn, the floor are oak.  The decorative bands of lighs on the balconies are designed for acoustical reasons and as a subdued alumination in the auditorium. The 419 square meter ceiling is covered in 24 carat gold leaf.  

Photo: Berne Lundkvist

Photo: Berne Lundkvist

In the Danish Royal Orchestra's rehearsal room, located five floors below the auditorium, artificially lit skylights give the appearance of sunlight entering the space.

The walls and ceiling are covered in wood. The Opera and the Ballet each have two rehearsal rooms, and other smaller rehearsal rooms are available for musicians and the chorus. The side wings of the building house dressing rooms, offices and workshops and, in the basement, scenery storage facilities.

Photo courtesy HLT

From the restaurant and terrace on the top floor there is a 180 degree view of the harbor and the city.

Photo courtesy HLT

Mærsk McKinney Møller commissioned three artists to decorate the building. Three light sculptures by Olafur Eliasson, 2,000 pieces of glass and 300 lamps, hang in the Foyer. The Opera logo and the stage curtain are designed by Per Arnoldi, and four bronze reliefs, mounted, on the Auditorium's base, by Per Kirkeby. 

Drawing courtesy HLT Site Plancopenhagen_opera_house_19.jpg
Drawing courtesy HLTPlan
Drawing courtesy HLTSection


Model photo courtesy HLT

Facts about Copenhagen Opera House

Total area:

41,000 m2
Under ground Area: 12,000 m2


Henning Larsen Architects

Architect's in charge:
Henning Larsen & Peer Teglgaard Jeppesen

Project architect:
Helle Basse  

Rambøll A/S

Theater Technology:
Theater Planning & Technology Ltd.

Ove Arup & Partners International

Managing Contractor:
E. Pihl & Søn A/S


A.P. Møller and Chastine Mc.Kinney Møller Foundation

The project benefits from the latest developments in acoustic design, including Arup's expertise in the use of both acoustic scale modelling and advanced computer simulation skills, coupled with extensive sound analysis of opera houses worldwide.

Last updated: December 19, 2013

See also

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