Harpa emerges on the border between land and sea and forms part of an extensive harbor development project in the city. The overall objective has been to expand and revitalize Reykjavik’s eastern harbor, and create a better connection between it and the city center.
Harpa comprises both concert and conference facilities, including four main halls. Seen from the foyer, the halls form a massif that — similar to rock on the coast — forms a stark contrast to the expressive, open facade. At the core, the largest hall of the building, the main concert hall, unfolds its interior as a glowing center of force.
The changing daylight penetrating the facade creates a vibrant, adventurous play of light, shadow, and color in the foyer. Harpa’s multifaceted glass facades are the result of a unique collaboration between artist Olafur Eliasson and Henning Larsen Architects. The design is based on a geometric principle. Inspired by the crystallized basalt columns commonly found in Iceland, the southern facades create kaleidoscopic reflections of the city and the surrounding landscape.
Made of a twelve-sided space-filler of glass and steel that Eliasson calls “quasi brick,” the building appears as an ever-changing play of color, reflected in the more than 1,000 three-dimensional bricks composing the southern façade. The remaining facades and the roof are made of sectional representations of this geometric system, resulting in two-dimensional flat facades of five- and six-sided structural frames.
Light and transparency are key elements of the building. The crystalline structure captures and reflects the light—promoting a dialogue between the building, the city, and the surrounding landscape. One of the main ideas has been to “dematerialize” the building as a static entity and let it respond to the surrounding colors—the city lights, ocean, and glow of the sky.
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