Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Toaster

I'll start my new theme about modern buildings in Copenhagen with one of the most criticized ones in the later years, the new Opera. The Opera was a gift from Mærsk McKinney-Møller, probably the richest Dane and owner of Maersk Shipping. He wanted it placed opposite the Royal palace of Amalienborg on a line with the Marble Church on an area that was the former Naval Station Holmen. Mr. Møller controlled the construction from start to finish out of the philosophy that it was his gift and his money. The city really needed a new opera house because the Royal Theater was old and rundown and a new scene would make it possible to stage the biggest of the operas and attract international talent to the Danish opera scene.

The result was this building on a small island at the harbor finished in 2004. It has been compared to a toaster or maybe a radiator grill on an early American car. Many people say it's too big and too dominant where it's placed with no other buildings next to it. It's a traffic nightmare to take a car to a show, a long detour and few parking spaces nearby sure make it a challenge. But in Denmark we have an informal "law" called Jante's Law. It states that you should never think that you are better than the rest. And this law is in my opinion the real reason for most of the criticism. Mr. Møller has too much money for manys taste and they think he flaunted it by giving this great gift to Copenhagen.

I think that it's a great shame that too many people of Copenhagen didn't show some gratitude for their new Opera. The building might be big but it has to be to make room for the scenes, the public areas, the workshops etc. and the traffic situation is far from optimal. I don't think the building is hideous nor is it placed in the wrong place. I don't think that its outside is beautiful either but inside it's stunning. Hardwood panels, walking bridges, great sphere shaped chandeliers and lots of marble, stone, glass and steel make for an interesting space as soon as you go inside. At night it's one of the few buildings in Copenhagen that is lit.

The photo was taken very early one morning just before sunrise and I think that it has an almost impressionist appearance.

Tomorrow I'll visit another new scene just around the corner from this one.

BTW: I've updated this post with the photos below to show some more of this building.