Henning Larsen Architects

September 05, 2011 /

Reykjavik, Iceland

Photo: Nic Lehoux

Situated in a solitary spot, with a clear view of the enormous sea and the mountains surrounding Reykjavik, Harpa stands out like a large, radiant sculpture reflecting both sky and harbor space as well as the vibrant life of the city.

The primary objective of the masterplan was to create a new identity for the east harbor and transform the area into an attractive urban space for the citizens. In the evening, the building stands out as an active, luminous stage where the interior of the building and city life are united.

Photo © Bára Kristinsdóttir

Using the spectacular waterfront settings as an attractor we have aimed at creating a catalyst for the entire city of Reykjavik, while at the same time enhancing the link between the city centre and the harbor./Peer Teglgaard Jeppesen, Partner & Director

The plaza in front of the Concert Hall is designed to generate a unique atmosphere where the dark base, referring to the black Icelandic sand, emphasizes the play of light and colors in the facades. The water pools mirror the facades and provide the plaza with a well-defined expression. Approaching the harbor from the city, the Concert Hall rises from the black base of the front plaza.

Photo: Nic Lehoux

Photo: Stephanie E. Calvet

Photo: Nic Lehoux

Harpa's multifaceted glass facades are the result of a unique collaboration between renowned artist Olafur Eliasson and Henning Larsen Architects. The design is based on a geometric principle, realized in two and three dimensions. Light and transparency are key elements.

Made of a twelve-sided space-filler of glass and steel called the "quasi brick," the building appears as a kaleidoscopic play of colors, reflected in the more than 1,000 quasi bricks composing the southern facade. 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.

The crystalline structure, created by the geometric figures, captures and reflects the light - promoting the dialogue between the building, city and surrounding landscape.

Photo: Nic Lehoux

Photo: Nic Lehoux

At night, strips of red, green and blue LED lights integrated in the bricks illuminate the facades. Conceptually developed by Olafur Eliasson, the color and light intensity of each brick can be individually controlled, thereby generating the full color spectrum. In the foyer, kaleidoscopic shadows are projected onto the walls and floor, creating an almost crystalline space.

Photo courtesy Harpa

Photo: Nic Lehoux

Photo: Nic Lehoux

Photo: Nic Lehoux

The dark walls and floors in the foyer offer a strong contrast to the light glass facade enhancing the play of light and color in the glass. The dark surface runs as a carpet from the exterior plaza to the core of the building, where it embraces the outside of the four halls and makes them appear as dark rock formations.

As a contrast, the balcony floors are made of light materials to emphasize the reflecting properties of the facade.

Photo: Nic Lehoux

Photo: Nic Lehoux

Photo: Nic Lehoux

Photo: Stephanie E. Calvet

The Centre features an arrival- and foyer area in the front of the building, four halls in the middle and a backstage area with offices, administration, rehearsal hall and changing room in the back of the building. The three large halls are placed next to each other with public access on the south side and backstage access from the north. The fourth floor is a multifunctional hall with room for more intimate shows and banquets. the largest hall of the Centre, the Concert Hall, reveals its interior as a red-hot center of force.

Photo: Nic Lehoux

Designed in the shape of a shoe box and surrounded by reverberation chambers the Main Hall, seating 1,800, contrasts the more prosaic atmosphere in the foyer. The dynamic composition of the walls is enhanced by the lighting and neutral appearance of the floors, ceiling and sides of the reliefs. The halls are all designed for a multi-functional use with flexible light and acoustic amenities. The conference hall is equipped with retractable ranks of seats.

The building's name Harpa refers to the musical instrument, the harp. It is also the name of the first month of spring in the Nordic calendar - and for the people of Iceland this means the promise of better times.

/Steinunn Birna Ragnarsdóttir
Musical Director of Harpa

Sketch courtesy Henning Larsen Architects

Drawing courtesy Henning Larsen Architects Site Plan

Drawing courtesy Henning Larsen Architects Plan Level 1
Drawing courtesy Henning Larsen Architects Plan Level 2
Drawing courtesy Henning Larsen Architects Plan Level 6
Drawing courtesy Henning Larsen Architects Section Foyer East West EN ARCHITECTS
Drawing courtesy Henning Larsen Architects Section Main HallEN


Facts about Harpa

Total area:

29,000 m2


Henning Larsen Architects A/S

Responsible Partner:
Director Peer Teglgaard Jeppesen

Architect/Design Manager:
Assoc. Partner Ósbjørn Jacobsen

Project Manager:
Architect Klavs Holm Madsen

Collaborating Architects:
Batteríi Architects Ltd.

Olafur Eliasson

Artec Consultants Inc.

Landscape Architects:
Landslag efh.

Artec Consultants
Mannvit Engineers
Hnit Consulting Engineers
Efla Engineers
ArtEngineering GmbH

IAV hf., Iceland Prime Contractor Ltd.


Austurnhofn TR - East Harbour Project Ltd.

Stephanie Calvet

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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