FROM ITS CANTILEVERED roof plane, to its soaring glass facade and the large conch-like auditorium visible behind it, Copenhagen's new Opera House is a symbol of all that is dynamic and forward-looking about the city. Situated on the former Royal Naval Dockyard, the Opera House shares the area with 17th-Century red brick warehouses and barracks that now house the Royal Academy schools specialising in drama, film, architecture and music.
However, within its expansive and historic location, the Opera stands apart from the crowd. In fact, to underscore the importance of the Opera House, two canals were excavated on either side, leaving the building to effectively occupy its own private island.
The Opera building had been donated to the people of Copenhagen by the AP Moller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Moller Foundation, with architectural firm Henning Larsens Tegnestue appointed as architect on the 41,000m² project.
The scale of the project is easy to see in its material volumes. The building shell consists of 61,000 tons of concrete and 4700 tons of steel reinforcing; the 4900m² facade is clad with 11,207 pieces of Jura Gelb, a calciferous stone from north Germany; and the entire site and all the quaysides have been paved with Chinese granite. Inside, 364 cubic metres of maple and 25,683m² of stained maple veneer cover the foyer and hall, while a staggering 1450 windows admit natural light.
When first glimpsed from the harbour, the Opera House's cantilevered roof stretches over 30 metres out towards the water and defines the welcoming plaza area below it.
Appearing to float above the main structure, the roof provides a unifying ele-ment of the Opera House, its architectural function both providing a sense of grand arrival and also bringing together the various spatial elements of the building. These include the Front of House', comprising the foyer and the auditorium, and Backstage', made up of the stage area, workshop facilities, dressing rooms, rehearsal facilities and administration.
The grand, covered arrival plaza beneath the roof plane is oriented towards the western evening sky, welcoming the audience approaching by boat or from the wide harbour promenade.