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OBIT: The Master of Light

Henning Larsen, who designed the Saudi foreign ministry and the Copenhagen Opera House has died at the age of 87.

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One of Denmark’s most famed architects, Henning Larsen, died on Saturday at the age of 87, his office has announced.

An icon of Nordic modernism, Larsen’s long and distinguished career began following his degree from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1952, and eventually earned himself the label of ‘Master of Light’.

He established his own practice in 1959, specialising in larger buildings designed for the general public, such as schools, universities and libraries.

His international breakthrough came in 1984 with the construction of the foreign ministry building in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Since then, Henning Larsen Architects has designed numerous large complexes, including the Free University in Berlin, Copenhagen Business School, The Mærsk McKinney Møller Centre for Continuing Education at Churchill College in Cambridge, the Busan Opera House in South Korea and the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California.

In Denmark he is best known for a complex he didn’t like – the Copenhagen Opera House, which he designed under strict, and not always acceptable but followed orders, of the donor of the building, the late Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller.

In a book of memoirs, Larsen called the building a ‘toaster’.

Last year, Larsen won the Praemium Imperiale prize awarded annually by the Japan Art Association – the first Dane ever to do so. The Praemium Imperiale Prize is often characterised at the Nobel Prize of the arts.

“Light seems to fall from the ceiling and windows, reflecting off the floors and walls, filling the space sublimely; these minutely calculated lighting effects are one of the greatest characteristics of Henning Larsen’s architecture,” the awarding prize committee said.

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