Iceland Mag

10 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Art & Design

Harpa concert hall named one of 10 Best Designed in the World

By Staff

  • Harpa in early spring The glass skin is illuminated at night. Photo/Valli

  • Eldborg The four different concert halls of Harpa each have their own unique character and atmosphere. Photo/Valli

The American architecture and design magazine Architectural Digest has named Harpa Concert Hall in downtown Reykjavík as one of the top ten best designed buildings in the world. The magazine notes that modern architectural monuments, like Harpa, shape public space:  

Harpa concert hall

Harpa concert hall A striking structure Photo/Valli

"Even before its official opening, this gemlike venue breathed new life into the Icelandic capital’s once-sleepy harbor, captivating locals and luring visitors with its kaleidoscopic façade of multicolor glass. The crystalline shell, conceived by artist Olafur Eliasson, wonderfully complements the structure’s aggregate of jagged, geometric volumes. At night, exterior LED strips activate, transforming the waterfront landmark into a shimmering beacon of beauty."

This is not the first time the design of Harpa is recognized. Harpa received the Mies van der Rohe award in 2013, and the World Architecture Award in 2010.

A controversial and monumental building 
Harpa Concert Hall is one of the most striking buildings in Reykjavík. It is also one of the most controversial. Initial plans envisioned the building as a part of a larger World Trade Center Reykjavík, which was to include a major hotel and offices. Harpa was to be built and operated by a company owned by one of Iceland's most prominent Corporate Vikings, billionaire investor Björgólfur Guðmundsson, who was one of the chairman of Landsbankinn bank, and one of it's largest shareholders. Its construction had only just started when the Icelandic economy collapsed as a consequence of the 2008 financial crash.  

Harpa construction site, Landsbankinn
Never built Headquarters of Landsbankinn bank, part of Reykjavík World Trade Center. Photo/BIG

The building stood half-finished in the fall of 2008 when the City of Reykjavík and the Icelandic State took over its construction. The first concert was held in Harpa on May 4 2011. It was then opened to the public on May 13 2011. 

The building has two restaurants with a view of the harbour and four different concert halls with seating for up to 3,200 people.

Read more: Work starts to replace last remaining monument to 2008 crash with a Marriott hotel

A five star Marriott hotel, offices and retail space is currently under construction at the site where the World Trade Center Reykjavík was to be built.

Related content

Editor's Picks