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Harpa Architecture - Reykjavik

January seems like a good time to share something a bit different. In this case it's not wildlife, nature, or conventional landscape photography. But it's good to get out of your comfort zone now and again, and I hope you will get something from this departure from my usual subject matter too.


Last time I was in Iceland's capital, Reykjavik, I challenged myself to capture some interesting pictures of one of it's more recent architectural landmarks, and a building I enjoy; Harpa Concert Hall. It's a fascinating building. On the face of it it's a huge glass monolith like many going up around the world. But it's design also leans on the cultural and geological character of Iceland. I think it's a triumph of a design, which quite literally reflects the colours, skies, and climate of it's surroundings. I wanted to capture some of those elements in photos. So I took my trusty 70-200mm lens, and pointed it at the Harpa from several angles.


Sun reflecting off the Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik.

I love how the subtle sunlight of the far north bounces off this building, and I'm sure this effect is no accident.


Side angles of Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik

Harpa was designed by Henning Larsen Architects of Copenhagen and the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson.


Glass front of Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik

Conceived last century, the project was finally green-lit in 2006, and construction began in 2007 - just months before Iceland's economy collapsed at the start of the Global Financial Crisis of that decade. Construction was soon halted, and there was much debate about whether this was a good use of public money at a time of great hardship for the country. But they persisted, and restarted the project, making it the only active construction project in the country at the time, such was the state of the economy. Harpa was finally completed and opened in 2011.


Corner angle of Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik

On our first visit, in 2013, local opinion was still distinctly split. It was an unapologetically modern building in the heart of the traditional downtown Reykjavik. More to the point, the project was considered something of a white elephant, with many residents still angry about the spiralling construction costs at precisely the wrong time for the country. But like any classic Grand Designs episode they found the money and it all worked out in the end. And I'm sure Kevin McCloud would speak even more effusively about the final result than I'm able to, all while immaculately turned out in no less than three subtly differing shades of blue.

My feeling from more recent visits is that the building is now where it deserves to be; considered a jewel in the crown of Reykjavik's cultural highlights, with which it is in great company.


Side wall of Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik

These huge glass windows are structured and shaped in a form which represents the characteristic basalt columns, which can be found around many of the country's iconic landmarks; a relic of the land's famous volcanic history.

From the outside (see above) the tinted glass reflects the moody skies surrounding the city. From inside (see below) the structures appear even more bewildering and mind-bending.


Steel and glass wall structure of Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik

I don't know how or why this one panel managed to distort and refract the structure of the adjacent wall, but it's an example of one of the many such effects you can discover as you walk around the interior of the building.


Window abstract from Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik

Back outside now, and I managed to catch this sun-lit side of the building.


Wall of glass, on the side of Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik

This next image is another optical illusion. The section on the left looks so much like water, it was tempting to rotate it 90 degrees, to lean into that idea. But it fact it's just another section of the building, once again playing with reflections and organic textures.


Glass reflections on Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik

The name Harpa is a seasonal Icelandic word for early spring, and was one of over 4,000 suggestions submitted by residents.


Glass wall panels of Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik

I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing this building. It shifts shape as you move around it, and looks radiant in all weathers, as of course it was designed to do, with the Reykjavik climate in mind.


Slanted corner angle of Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik

Along with Hallgrímskirkja, it's now one of the icons of Reykjavik, and it's always a welcome sight upon arrival in the city; letting me know I'm back in my happy place.


Basalt columns of the Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik

I hope you enjoyed me sharing something a bit different in this post. This will always be principally a nature and wildlife blog, but I think it's good to take influence from all other forms of art and creativity, and for me that includes architecture. Also, it's been a whole five months since I last blogged about Iceland :-)

Anyway, next time we'll be back to normal, as I've got some bird of prey photos that I'm really excited about.


-

George

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