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Henning Larsen

Key Nordic Figure (1925-2013)


On 22 June, a few weeks after receiving the Mies van der Rohe Award for the Harpa Concert Hall, completed in Reykjavik, Finland, in 2011, Henning Larsen passed away in Copenhagen. A graduate of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, trained under another illustrious Dane, Jørn Utzon, and heir of a Scandinavian tradition that in his country was started by Arne Jacobsen, Henning Larsen was as an architect extraordinarily prolific – with more than a hundred buildings to his name, including university facilities, housing developments, hospitals and congress centers –, as well as very flexible, with a capacity to use different architectural languages. This productive and versatile quality of Larsen much explains the success of his practice – set up in 1959 and now employing almost 200 people – and his presence in both the Scandinavian context – where besides the Harpa Concert Hall he built some of the finest buildings in the entire region, including the Copenhagen Opera House, for which he merited Japan’s prestigious Praemium Imperiale of 2012 – and in very different environments, such as Saudi Arabia, where he built the Danish embassy (1988) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Riyadh (1984), works that would bring him the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1989. Larsen managed to combine this herculean professional activity with teaching, publishing – he was at the helm of the magazine Skala from 1980 to 1990 –, and also philanthropy, through the foundation that carries his name.

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