With the Opera House in Copenhagen, an island formerly used for military purposes in the harbour in the eastern part of the city has been developed as a new cultural location. The Opera House building is in effect an extension of a historically signiﬁcant city axis, so in sculptural terms the building itself has been developed towards this side only. The construction of the Opera House was funded entirely by a private donor.
The Royal Danish Opera House is located on a former military site on the island of Holmen, forming a direct extension of the historic city axis running from Frederik’s Church to Amalienborg Palace.
The entire project was funded by Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, a shipping magnate and the richest man in Denmark, from his own private assets. He also directly commissioned the Danish architecture firm Henning Larsen to design the building, without a tendering process, and maintained a considerable say in matters of detail.
The most striking element of the Opera House, which opened in 2005, is its roof, which forms an enormous brim towards the west, covering the square in front of the building on the water’s edge with a protrusion of 33 metres. The building itself is also vast, with around 1,000 rooms across 14 floors, of which five are below ground, but the structure is compact with an almost square floor plan. The side façades have been kept plain and functional, forming a box-like shell. The undisputed showpiece is the floor-to-ceiling foyer with a steel and glass façade that bulges out slightly on the vertical line towards the waterfront, directly opposite the royal Amalienborg Palace.
The main auditorium is located on the central axis of the structure towards the waterside. At night when the building is illuminated, the outside of the auditorium, which is clad in maple, shines like a golden snail shell behind the glass case of the entrance hall. With its lightweight staircase and delicate walkways, the foyer itself is designed to form a giant frame with a magnificent view of the city’s silhouette, and is thus an ideal place for concert-goers to gather. Albeit with a view somewhat distorted by horizontal metal slats – inserted at the express request of the patron.