The Opera Park: Evergreen Garden in the Harbor

Urban spaces

© Per Frost, Technidrone

The Royal Opera House has a front garden, right where the harbor bus docks. In the midst of the city’s blue main artery, The Opera Park stands as a green, soft counterpart to the glass and sharp edges that otherwise dominate much of Copenhagen’s harbor front.

Next to the Opera, for many years, was a modest lawn – seemingly defenseless in a city marked by rapid growth. Thus, it’s almost miraculous that an area equivalent to almost three soccer fields remained untouched for nearly 20 years. Nonetheless, that was the case for the southern part of Dokøen (Dock Island). This attractive building site is no longer untouched, but instead of buildings there is now plants.

Or so it seems. Beneath the plants, a two-story parking garage has been established for the Opera’s guests arriving by car. It has a capacity for 300 vehicles.

In this way, The Opera Park fulfills two important functions: Improved access and parking for the Opera’s guests, as well as providing a much-needed green space for Copenhageners and the city’s visitors.

A Scenic Composition

The park is arranged like a stage with a foreground, middle ground, and background. Plants and trees are positioned so their natural heights create a landscape that opens towards the harbor.

Beyond the inspiration from an opera stage, the park also references the area’s history as a trading center, where ships returned from distant corners of the world, laden with goods and tales from foreign lands.

Some of Copenhagen’s most beautiful parks were also shaped in this era. The classical English romantic garden inspired parks like Frederiksberg Garden and the Copenhagen Botanical Garden. It is a reinterpretation of this you encounter in The Opera Park.

Versatile Garden Year-Round

With a wide variety of trees, bushes, plants, and flowers – a mix of local and exotic species, each season creates a new backdrop. The intent is for park visitors to experience a constantly changing annual cycle. From spring’s blossoming colors to winter’s pine trees and frozen ponds.

Within the park, there are small niches, pockets, and defined views that invite visitors to linger, alone or in small groups. The idea is for visitors to “hide themselves” for a while before returning to the city’s bustling daily life.

In the center of the park stands a pavilion with a café and a greenhouse. This way, The Opera Park remains vibrant and inviting, even during the coldest winter months when other green areas in the city are typically deserted.

Adapted to the Times

Greater and more frequent cloudbursts have made it increasingly important to adapt the architecture. In The Opera Park, this has been achieved with a slightly elevated landscape design and green roofs to create a larger green surface area. Strong winds, which can occur by the water, are directed over the canopy of the park, providing some shelter.

The underground parking facility also plays a crucial role. Besides the parking revenues covering the park’s operating costs, excess rainwater is collected in underground tanks to be used for irrigation during dry periods.

Solar panels on the Opera’s roof provide power to the parking facility, the park area, and the nearby café.

The Opera Park was donated by the A.P. Møller Foundation as a recreational space in Copenhagen. It was designed by COBE and covers a total area of 21,500 square meters. Both the park and underground parking were established by the Opera Park Foundation, which also owns and manages them.

Near The Opera Park

The Opera House, located right next to the park, is impossible to miss. Do yourself a favor and step into the foyer to take a closer look at Olafur Eliasson’s three large, spherical light sculptures hanging from the ceiling. From The Opera Park, you can also spot Skuespilhuset (The Royal Playhouse) and Papirøen (Paper Island). You can also go for a stroll around the Holmen, which is filled with old, well-preserved buildings.