Design and light in concert
A new Reykjavik landmark
In the land of fire and ice, a colourful concert hall has found itself fast-tracked to landmark status
Sometimes decades pass before a building becomes a landmark. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, for instance, was initially an eyesore to the inhabitants of the French capital when it was inaugurated in 1889. Eventually they came to terms with its unusual appearance and in the end, it progressed to being an unmistakable landmark and tourist magnet for the city. A long, arduous process.It was a completely different story for Harpa, the new concert and conference building in Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik. When the opening ceremony was held for the impressive building in 2011 after four years’ construction, it quickly became clear to the people of Iceland that they were dealing with a heavily symbolic structure. Harpa had everything needed of an architectural masterpiece and visual showpiece.
Harpa’s exterior shell - true design experience
Harpa’s exterior shell – true design experience
What is particularly unique is its facade which lets light shine through. It is composed of dichroic glass which changes colour with the lighting conditions or different perspectives. Built in a honeycomb pattern with steel struts, Harpa’s exterior shell is a true design experience – a great, vibrantly coloured homage to the nature of Iceland – designed by renowned Danish-Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson.
Harpa's airy foyer
Harpa’s airy foyer
Yet Harpa really catches the eye in ways beyond its exterior, too. The double glass facade also casts interwoven colours and shadows just as impressively into the concert hall’s interior. When standing and contemplating the airy foyer, the hypnotic appearance of the design tour de force can cause visitors to lose track of their actual reason for visiting Harpa. Simultaneously, Harpa offers many such reasons for visiting, too – concerts, readings, events or conferences. For every taste and occasion, there is something on offer.
Harpa’s concert hall
Harpa’s concert hall
The world’s classical and pop music stars come to Reykjavik for concerts at regular intervals. At the same time, there is also enough domestically to fill the building’s programme, with Harpa being home to both the Icelandic symphony orchestra as well as the Icelandic opera. It is, simply speaking, a masterpiece of architecture, a feast for the senses and a worthy new landmark for the Icelandic capital.
Louis Becker – the lead architect of Harpa
Louis Becker – the lead architect of Harpa
Eliasson considered his Icelandic roots when coming up with the design and, using the symmetry of the glass blocks interlinked with each other, erected a memorial in honour of Iceland’s nature. The glass design imitates the hexagonal basalt columns that appear in Iceland’s austere landscape.The ever-changing wealth of colour, on the other hand, is a symbol of the island’s lighting and weather conditions that are constantly redeveloping. His attempt to create a symbiosis of natural spectacle and design excellence in one building was a success. Since opening, Harpa has won countless architecture and design awards, including the internationally respected Mies van der Rohe Award in 2013.
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