Copenhagen Opera House

Copenhagen Opera House, Copenhagen - Denmark, Henning Larsen Architects
Construction year: 2004
Address: 10 Ekvipagemestervej 1438 | COPENHAGEN | Denmark
Latitude/Longitude: 55.6819, 12.6006

The Opera is situated in Copenhagen’s inner harbour and completes the historical axis running from the Marble Church through Amalienborg and into the Opera – right at the stage front where the performing artists and their audience meet.

The Opera has two auditoriums: the Large Auditorium – organized as a classical horseshoe shape with a 1,800 seating capacity – and Takkelloftet – the Royal Danish Theatre’s black box stage for experimental theatre seating 200. The wooden shell that embraces the Large Auditorium – visible all the way from the harbour space through the glass façade – lies like a smooth and golden conch in the foyer with its stairs and light footbridges dynamically connected to the balconies that run alongside the façade of the structure. From up here, the audience of the Opera is provided with views of the entire foyer as well as a 180° panoramic view spanning from the harbour fairway towards Knippelsbro and across the city centre turrets and spires to the view out of the harbour towards Øresund to the north.

The Opera – full of life and activity around the clock – together with the various other cultural bodies of the area contributes to the vibrant and inspirational urban space at Holmen.

The Arrival Plaza

The audience enters the arrival plaza from the wide harbour promenade or by crossing the harbour fairway by boat. A future bridge project from Holmen to Nyhavn is in the planning.

The arrival plaza is framed by the 32 m long floating roof eaves the size of three solid football fields. The roof structure copies the technique applied to an airplane wing, which in order to ‘float’ must possess a comparatively small structural depth and an extensive span. As a result of this particular roof design, the Opera received The IABSE Outstanding Structure Award in 2008.

To emphasize the monumental character and maritime location of the structure, canals have been excavated on both sides of the Opera.

The Auditorium

With its exterior shell of stained maple, the Large Auditorium of the Opera draws an evident parallel to the body of a stringed instrument. A magical universe of tones and sound embrace you and rouse your expectations even as you enter. The golden maple is continued inside the auditorium in the balcony cladding. The rear walls and the floor are covered in stained solid maple elements and smoked oak, respectively. Horizontal recesses and reliefs are coordinated in number, depth, length and height on all rear walls, box walls and balcony fronts not only for ornamental purposes but to ensure excellent acoustics as well. Seats are upholstered in velour according to Royal Danish Theatre tradition.

The Large Auditorium seats from 1,400 to 1,800 depending on orchestra pit size. The classical horseshoe structure shapes an intense space surrounded by the audience, with the “see and be seen” effect merging into the magic of the opera performance. The intimate space with the four elaborately decorated balconies forming one coherent piece of furniture that stretches forward onto the stage front accentuates the meeting between performing art and its audience. A grid of light spots inserted in the 24-carat gold leaf covered ceiling lights the auditorium like the stellar sky. The conical balcony fronts have integrated light in the horizontal recesses as an ornamental element, and small spots placed under the balconies provide light to the balcony seats.

Process and collaboration

In 2000 the A.P. Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation decided to donate an opera hall to Denmark. Henning Larsen Architects were commissioned to make an opera and ballet venue with design and acoustics of international format.

Four years passed from the date of commissioning the project until the structure was completed – an absolute requirement from the client. Consequently, the process was both very fast and very efficient; in 2001 with the architects still in the design process, the excavators started digging on the site. When peaking, the Opera project employed more than 40 architects from the office.

In order to obtain the best possible conditions for both construction, acoustics and stage technology, Henning Larsen Architects during the entire process worked in the closest collaboration with a number of international consultants and specialists: engineers Ramboll, Arup Acoustics, lighting architects Speirs and Major as well as theatre and stage specialists Theatreplan LLP. The mutual commitment established within the cross-disciplinary interaction of the client’s staff, the consultant team and the operating party (a total of more than 950 staff divided into building workers, supervisors and chief resident engineers) resulted in the erection of one of the biggest and most innovative structures in Denmark: the Opera in Copenhagen with its 41,000 m2 distributed onto 14 floors and more than 1,100 rooms. The Opera was completed in October 2004 and was ready for its public inauguration on 15 January 2005.

Client: The A.P. Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation
Gross floor area: 41,000 m2
Type of assignment: Commission
Collaborators: E. Pihl & Søn A/S, Rambøll A/S, Theatre Plan LLP, Ove Arup & Partners International

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