top of page

Copenhagen's "Toaster" Opera House| Criticised as the worst work of Architect: Henning Larsen

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

The Copenhagen Opera House (Operaen) in Copenhagen Holmen, Denmark.
The Copenhagen Opera House (Operaen) in Copenhagen Holmen, Denmark.

General Info 📚

  • Architect: Henning Larsen

  • Architectural style: Neo-futurism

  • Construction dates: 2001-2005

  • Seating capacity:1,700

  • Design of one of the largest canopy roof structures in the world.


A bit about the Architect

Portrait of the Danish architect Henning Larsen
Portrait of the Danish architect Henning Larsen

Henning Larsen, (20 August 1925 – 22 June 2013) was a Danish architect. He is internationally known for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Riyadh and the Copenhagen Opera House.

Larsen studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, from which he graduated in 1952. He continued studies subsequently at the Architectural Association School of Architecture and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Larsen founded an architectural firm that bears his name, Henning Larsen Architects (formerly Henning Larsens Tegnestue A/S). From 1968 to 1995, he was a professor of architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. In 1985, he established the SKALA architecture gallery and the parallel SKALA architecture journal, both entities of which continued until 1994.


Source: Wikipedia



Architectural Insight

The building was designed by architect Henning Larsen in close and often problematic collaboration with Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller. Mærsk wanted the building to have several features in its design: it would not become obsolete in function and appearance due to any fiscal compromise.

He personally tested seats and materials, he visited many places in the world to see how opera buildings were constructed and how the building materials were looking after having been exposed over time to weather.

The Entrance of the Opera
The Entrance of the Opera

Henning Larsen, on the other hand, was trying to make sure that the original architectural ideas were carried through the construction process, especially concerning the large glass surface front, which became a matter of great controversy and subsequent compromise.

The building exterior is faced with Jura Gelb, a beige limestone quarried in Germany. It is situated on ground that is surrounded by canals that are designed to give the impression the structure is on an island. The bridges constructed to access the building were made from oak trees originally planted in the 19th century for use in replacing the national fleet that was lost with the bombardment of Copenhagen in September 1807.

plan view drawings of the Opera House

The front of the building was originally designed with large glazing panels in order to see the shell of the auditorium from the harbourside. However, Mærsk emphasized that glass does not age well, so the façade was changed to a metal grid.

The foyer floor is Sicilian Perlatino marble. The central foyer holds three spherical chandeliers created by the Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Each chandelier consists of several pieces of glass, which are semipermeable allowing some light to pass, and some to reflect. The patterns change when viewed from different angles.

The auditorium ceiling is gilded with about 105,000 sheets of an almost pure carat (100%) gold leaf. The floor in the main auditorium is smoked oak. The balcony faces have been designed with openings in a special pattern to improve sound quality, and LED-based lighting that can be illuminated in a variety of patterns.

Rooftop Cafe

Read more:



bottom of page