In 2008 Iceland experienced a disastrous financial crash. What had looked like an endless path to growth, reaching back to the year 2000, came to a standstill taking a whole nation to an edge of a financial cliff. Among the significant symbols of growth and prosperity was a new conference and concert hall by the harbor. A symbol of success and wealth. A project that had started but a building that had barely surfaced. As the country seemed completely broke and more or less on the brink of bankruptcy at the mercy of the IMF, lacking resources to finance the healthcare and educational institutions, there was little interest in continuing with the immensely expensive conference hall. There was, of course, a very harsh dispute about the continuation of the project. Some wanted to stop the project as others saw it as a symbol of not giving up. In the end, a new left-wing government faced with more difficulties than any other government had in recent history, decided to go ahead and build this very expensive building. At that time it became a symbol of a nation not altogether dead as it was the only project in the whole country.
Harpa has become an important social and cultural building in Iceland
In hindsight, one must admit that it was the right decision to continue with the project. Even though it was a highly controversial decision, the building has proven to be of great value to Reykjavík and Iceland and is currently one of the most recognized landmarks in Reykjavík with many architectural as well as a concert hall rewards. It has at least five excellent concert halls and conference halls, two restaurants, small shops and a grand space on many floors with a great overview over Reykjavík City Center. It is a magnificent place to visit.
Harpa is a product of a cooperation between architects and a renowned Danish / Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson
The 28.000 square meter building was designed by the Danish architectural firm Henning Larsen Architects and the Icelandic architectural firm Batteríið Architects. On Harpa´s website, the creative role of artist Ólafur Elíasson is described: Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson designed the south facade, and developed the principle for the remaining north/east/west facades and roof in collaboration with Henning Larsen Architects and Batteríið Architects. Elíasson deploys light, color, and natural phenomena to test how physical movement, sensual engagement, and the interaction of body and brain influence our perception of our surroundings.
Today Harpa is considered one of the most important buildings in Reykjavík
From the time Harpa opened in 2011 numerous concerts, music festivals, conferences, meetings and small gatherings have been held in Harpa. Ranging from Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Icelandic Opera to electronic music concerts and our famous festival, Iceland Airwaves. It is truly a forum for a broad range of diversity. Harpa is also at the beginning of the famous Sculpture & Shorewalk path in Reykjavík.