With the icy wind whipping in our faces we headed walked the few minutes from our apartment to Harpa – the new and controversial Concert Hall on the Reykjavik waterfront. The building was the subject of an international competition, won by Henning Larsen Architects and Batteríið with internationally acclaimed Danish-Icelandic Artist Ólafur Elíasson designing the facade. The building has progressed despite Iceland’s economic collapse and the bankruptcy in particular of its original benefactor. It seems the locals are divided – some still have the idea that the grass would have been greener if the Jean Nouvel version had been chosen, built into a grassy knoll in more traditional fashion than the iceberg on the vacant area of the waterfront. But most have grudgingly accepted that the building will become something significant for Reykjavik’s future. Our visit to Harpa came just a few days after it’s “official” opening, although not yet finished. We were shown around by the Information Designer, Hörður Lárusson (Hö) from Vinnustofa Atla Hilmarssonar. The information design is still in the midst of being finished and it was interesting to see some of the process for working out what works and what doesn’t work. It seems that such a large space, with people movement and processes aplenty needs a bit of time to work out the best locations and amounts of signage.
I don’t feel our photos quite capture the colours, and appear icier and greyer than in actuality. Yet the building didn’t impress as much as hoped, maybe because it wasn’t finished, or perhaps because we had just visited the dynamic Casa da Musica. Apart from the prismatic facade – the interior feels a bit formulaic – although it has to be said, easy to navigate! But the orchestra seem happy to have their building, the tourists are interested and the locals remain optimistic about its impact. And I look forward to seeing the finalisation of the Information design and how some of the issues raised at this early stage are solved.Click on any of the thumbnails below to view the images full size.