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3XN was founded as Nielsen, Nielsen and Nielsen in Aarhus in 1986 by the architects Kim Herforth Nielsen, Lars Frank Nielsen (partner until 2002) and Hans Peter Svendler Nielsen (partner until 1992). The three Nielsen architects, often referred to as the Nielsens – and today simply as 3XN – quickly became known for two things: their preference for ground-breaking architecture, in defiance of the anti-humanistic modernism, and projects demanding a high level of detail and employing workmanship of the highest quality.
A first breakthrough came with the court house in Holstebro (1992), which was followed by a number of first prizes in architectural competitions, such as the Architects’ House in Copenhagen (1994) The Glass Museum in Ebeltoft (1995) the Oceanarium in Hirtshals (1996), the Danish Embassy in Berlin (1998) and the concert hall Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam (1997). The two latter structures, which were highly acclaimed, made a name on the international architectural scene for the artistically ambitious Danish architects with their distinctive approach and carefully planned spatial formations.
The Muziekgebouw, completed 2005, together with Museum of Liverpool (2004-) and Kubus in Berlin (first prize 2007), marks the focus on culture buildings and prestigious international competitions, without, however, compromising on the continued development of original solutions in plans, facades and organisation of the interiors. This two-fold ambition shows in the Danish upper secondary school Ørestad College (2004-2007), which has revolutionised school architecture and attracts interest from all over the world. Together with a number of original corporate headquarters designs such as FIH, Deloitte, Saxo Bank, Horten and KPMG, this became e new platform for the practice. Daring concepts and design also characterize master plans and housing projects like the Lighthouse in Aarhus and the new Denmark’s Aquarium, The Blue Planet, in Copenhagen. The latter being a spectacular design inspired by a whirlpool, which one critic in the Danish daily Politiken found so original as to warrant a comparison to Jørn Utzon’s opera house in Sidney.
In 2001, Kim Christiansen joined the management team as CEO, and in 2003, Bo Boje Larsen, previously with Henning Larsen Architects, came on board as managing director responsible for strategy and organisation and as head of the soon rapidly growing office in Copenhagen. In 2007, three young architects became partners, Jan Ammundsen, who heads the Competition Department in Copenhagen, and Michael Kruse and Tommy Bruun, who head the Competition Department in Aarhus. In 2009 Bo Boje Larsen assumed the position of CEO.
In 2007 3XN established a Research & Development department that scans the market and the latest research for pioneering ideas, focusing on green and digital architecture, new materials, technology, and working methods.