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Maritime Museum of Denmark | © Luca Santiago Mora
Maritime Museum of Denmark | © Luca Santiago Mora

Copenhagen's Innovative Architecture in 9 Buildings

Picture of Aliki Seferou
Updated: 14 June 2017

Discover nine innovative buildings of the 21st century you’ll come across while visiting the capital of Denmark – including two new masterpieces inaugurated just this year. From underground museums to unconventional study arrangements, and featuring some of the most intriguing designs and construction, read on to discover Copenhagen‘s new architectural accomplishments.

Copenhagen Opera House

The Copenhagen Opera House is considered one of the most modern opera buildings in the world and over the past few years has become one of the main tourist attractions in Copenhagen. Its unique location offers a great view of the Royal Palace, Amalienborg and Marble Church. It was designed by Danish architect Henning Larsen and, after three years of construction, it opened its doors for the first time to world-class orchestras and the audience in 2005. It can host between 1500 and 1700 guests, depending on the size of the orchestra, while the music stage has room for 110 musicians. Visitors can take guided tours to the backstage facilities, auditorium and to the rehearsal and training rooms.

Copenhagen Opera House, Ekvipagemestervej 10, Copenhagen, Denmark, +45 33 69 69 69

Copenhagen Opera House | © Magnus Kjaergaard / Wikimedia Commons

Copenhagen Opera House | © Magnus Kjaergaard / Wikimedia Commons

The Royal Library

Due to its peculiar cubic shape and solid black color, the Royal Library is also known as the Black Diamond. This architectural masterpiece, designed by Danish architect Schmidt Hammer Lassen, is located on Slotsholmen, just by the waterfront. Aside for six reading rooms and a great selection of books, the Black Diamond also includes a café, bookshop, exhibition room and restaurant. Moreover, theatrical performances, concerts and conferences take place in a specially designed area, which can host up to 600 people.

The Royal Library, 1219 Copenhagen, Denmark, +45 33 47 47 47

The Black Diamond | © Karsten Bundgaard

The Black Diamond | © Karsten Bundgaard

When looking at this dry rock structure, it’s hard to imagine that the Danish National Maritime Museum is located just underneath – and that it extends eight floors below sea level with exhibitions and installations. Bjarke Ingels, founder of BIG and one of the minds behind the design, points out that, in order to preserve the views of Hamlet’s Castle, creating a building even one meter tall wasn’t an option. So, they decided to excavate the dry dock and place the exhibition underground, without even touching the 60-year-old dock walls. BBC has named it ‘one of the eight greatest new museums’ while The New York Times called it ‘a cutting-edge cultural venue.’

Maritime Museum of Denmark, Ny Kronborgvej 1, Helsingør, Denmark, +45 49 21 06 85

Maritime Museum of Denmark | © Iwan Baan

Maritime Museum of Denmark | © Iwan Baan

VM Houses

VM Houses is the most bizarre, and at the same time most elegant, residential block in Copenhagen. The glass buildings with the small, pointed triangular balconies are located in Ørestad, a newly built area with modern architecture that doesn’t look anything like the colorful Baroque-style houses you’ll find in the rest of the city. VM Houses are built in such a way that its residents can enjoy the daylight, a great view to the south, and their privacy all day long. BIG and JDS architects are the people behind the remarkable design of more than 80 different apartment types.

VM Houses, Ørestads Blvd. 57-59, Copenhagen, Denmark

Ørestad High School

Instead of being in separate classrooms, Ørestad High School’s students take their courses in four, specially designed open areas, that look nothing like traditional, square classrooms. The building is divided into four floors, each one a study zone. A spiral staircase in the middle of the school connects the floors horizontally and vertically without blocking the view of the various study spaces. The vision behind the design is to enhance teamwork and collaboration among students, who are no longer in diverse classrooms, while promoting a new learning system. It was designed by the 3XN architects team and its construction was completed in 2006.

Ørestad High School, Ørestads Blvd. 75, Copenhagen, Denmark, +45 82 30 22 22

Ørestad Gymnasium | © Ørestad Gymnasium

Ørestad Gymnasium | © Ørestad Gymnasium


During the late ’90s, as the Ordrupgaard Museum’s collections were rapidly multiplying, the need for a new extension became increasingly apparent. The challenging task was undertaken by world-class architect Zaha Hadid, whose design came to life a few years later with a result no less than dazzling. Among the museum‘s buildings and gardens, obscuring the lines between structure and landscape, stands a stunning trapezoid building with a glass façade that allows visitors to marvel at the exhibitions under natural daylight while strolling through the gardens. As if that wasn’t peculiar enough, the black lava concrete that coats the structure’s exterior surfaces makes it look like it changes color and texture according to the weather.

Ordupgaard Art Museum, Vilvordevej 110, Charlottenlund, Denmark, +45 39 64 11 83

Ordrupgaard Museum | © Jelm6 / Wikimedia Commons

Ordrupgaard Museum | © Jelm6 / Wikimedia Commons

Copenhagen International School

The Copenhagen International School was inaugurated in the beginning of March, welcoming 1200 pupils from 80 countries to a 25,000-square meter building. Four asymmetrical towers comprise the newly built school, which is located in Nordhavn just on the waterfront, offering a great view for students ages 3 to 19. Besides its peculiar size – and the fact that each of the four sections of the school has different interior design – what makes this building special are the 12,000 solar panels on its façade, making it one of the world’s largest solar panel systems integrated in one building. It seems like the Danes did it again, with sustainability, style and innovative interior and exterior design combined in one structure.

Copenhagen International School | © Adam Mørk

Copenhagen International School | © Adam Mørk

Bella Sky Copenhagen

Whoever comes across the two 75-meter leaning towers that rise above Ørestad’s ground can’t help but look up in awe. Each tower contains approximately 400 rooms and, on the 23rd floor, the hotel bar offers a spectacular view of the city. Scandinavia’s biggest hotel was designed by 3XN, and the final result definitely meets the area’s standards. With glass and aluminum on the outside and 200 different innovative designs inside the rooms, Bella Sky is considered one of the most stylish hotels in Denmark.

Bella Sky Copenhagen, Center Blvd. 5, Copenhagen, Denmark, +45 32 52 88 11

Bella Sky Hotel | © Bella Center Hospitality Group

Bella Sky Hotel | Courtesy of Bella Center Hospitality Group

Royal Arena

The Royal Arena is one of Denmark’s latest architectural achievements, as it opened its doors for the first time in February 2017. The concert venue had booked the renowned band Metallica for February 5, in order to properly celebrate its opening. Unfortunately, due to their singer’s health problems, the concert was postponed for September, but until then many more cultural and musical events will take place. The Royal Arena offers the chance to 16,000 guests to enjoy unique shows in a specially designed area. The circular building’s façade has a wave-like shape that adds a playful tone to the glamorous design. Once again, 3XN architects were behind the idea, creating a space that combines quality, simplicity and style. 

Royal Arena, Hannemanns Allé 20, Copenhagen, Denmark

Royal Arena | © Royal Arena

Royal Arena | Courtesy of the Royal Arena