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We welcome the world

Reykjavík’s latest landmark Harpa ­– Concert Hall and Conference Centre

Harpa: We Welcome the World In October 2008, at the time of the Icelandic economic crash, Harpa was only half complete. With this building, a dream was set to come true for the Icelandic musical community - a concert hall was finally going to rise in Iceland. The crash, however, brought all construction to a standstill and the future of Harpa was thrown into complete uncertainty. The building could well have ended as a gigantic symbol of Iceland’s economic collapse, an abandoned and silent shell right in the heart of Reykjavík. But in early 2009, the Icelandic government and the City of Reykjavík made the daring decision, despite difficult financial circumstances, to complete the building and in May 2011 Harpa opened its doors to the public. In the first year and a half since opening, Harpa has received over 1.7 million visitors and has hosted over one thousand events. Instead of becoming a symbol of the economic crash, Harpa has become ‘a symbol of Iceland’s recovery’, according to a recent article in the Financial Times. The building has become a new land­ mark in Reykjavík, a stunning feature of the up-and-coming harbour area. Harpa is Iceland’s largest outdoor work of art, featuring a glass facade by artist Ólafur Elíasson which creates an incredible play of light, capturing sunlight and reflections of the sky and ocean whether seen from the outside or from the inside looking out. The numerous visitors we receive daily in Harpa come for a variety of reasons: to attend events, concerts and conferences or simply to take in the beauty of the building and its picturesque surroundings.

Since its opening, Harpa has received several awards and nominations and considerable press attention. The Gramophone magazine chose it as one of the ten best concert halls of the new millennium, and Harpa received the MICE award for best conference venue in Northern Europe in 2012. CNN and the Huffington Post nominated Reykjavík as one of the most exciting places to visit in 2013, with Harpa as a definite ‘must-see’. The success of Harpa is a source of great pleasure for those who work in the building, for we are aware of how close the project was to being abandoned. For this reason we humbly and joyfully welcome the world to Harpa, to offer a unique experience, be it a concert, event or conference or for a guided tour of the building. Halldór Guðmundsson, Director of Harpa

A new architectural gem in Northern Europe Harpa, the concert hall and conference centre in Reykjavík, Iceland, opened in May 2011. A striking addition to the Icelandic and European cultural scene, Harpa unites the most important music and performance venue in the country with an international conference centre. Offering a varied range of performances from classical to contemporary, the building is home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the Icelandic Opera and Reykjavík Big Band. Harpa also serves as a tourism and business hub, providing flexible facilities for a wide variety of international events.

Awards MICE Report award for best conference venue in Northern Europe Voted one of the ten concert halls of the new millenium by Gramophone magazine Civic Trust Award 2012 The Travel&Leisure Design Awards 2012—best cultural building Arkitekturmassan Awards 2011 —Best public space awarded to the Harpa square DV 2012 culture award for architecture  IIIDAwards 2011 for wayfinding

Iceland dreams of a concert hall Over a century ago, Icelanders started talking about the need for a concert hall in Reykjavík. The only musical performance venue at the time was a tiny building, Hljómskálinn, in the central Hljómskáli park by the pond which was built in 1923. The Iceland Symphony Orchestra grew both in size and in standing over the next few decades and was housed in the University Cinema, which was far from ideal for this purpose.

In early 1999 the state and the City of Reykjavík declared their joint intent to build a concert hall and conference centre in central Reykjavík. The next step was a competition for the design of the site and surroundings, the results of which were announced in 2002. A competition for the design of the building was won by the investment company Nýsir and Landsbankinn. Their proposal was for a building designed by Henning Larsen and Batteríið Architects with a glass facade designed by Ólafur Elíasson.

“Harpa provides a new centre of gravity for downtown Reykjavik… But more than this, Harpa is a wonderfully brazen emblem of Icelanders’ refusal to sacrifice culture in the face of crisis.” Rowan Moore, The Observer Hljómskálinn

Construction began in 2007 but came to a halt at the end of 2008 following the economic collapse and the bank足 ruptcy of Landsbankinn and N箪sir. Only 40 per cent of the building had been completed and there was much discussion on whether con足 struction should be continued at all. On 19 February 2009 the city and the state signed a declaration that they would take over the financial commitments and continue construction.

Some factors of the construction, its design and technological needs were revised so that the building could be used for a number of purposes, including rock/pop concerts and productions by the Icelandic Opera. Two restaurants and two shops also made contracts on the use of facilities in the building. Harpa was originally due to be com足 pleted in autumn 2010, but it became clear that this was not realistic. New targets were set, with the opening scheduled for May 2011 and full construction completed in August. Concerts in Harpa began in May and the building was officially inaugurated on 20 August.

Harpa under construction

“I think what is highly unique in Iceland is that the light is not just a little bit different compared with the rest of the world: it is incredibly, extremely different, partly because people here developed a life in twilight.” Ólafur Elíasson

The Facade

The Architecture

Harpa’s multi-faceted glass facade is the outcome of a unique collaboration between Ólafur Elíasson and Henning Larsen Architects. The design is based on a geometric principle, realised in two and three dimensions. Reminiscent of the crystallised basalt columns commonly found in Iceland, the southern facade creates kaleidoscopic reflections of the city and the striking natural landscape. Natural light is a key element, dramatically altering the transparency, reflectivity and colours of the facade as the weather and seasons change.

Designed by Henning Larsen Architects and Batteríið, the 28,000-square-metre building comprises four main halls, including a 1,800-seat concert hall, several meeting rooms and spacious exhibition areas. Seen from the foyer, the halls form a massif with the main hall, Eldborg, as its glowing red centre. This inner massif contrasts with the expressive and open facade, thereby generating a dialogue that defines Harpa’s public space and is continued in the square in front of the building. The dark grey shade inside Harpa contrasts with the crystalline exterior, which in turn merges Harpa with its surroundings and city life.

The Halls The names of Harpa’s individual halls were inspired by Iceland’s natural landscape and cultural heritage and are intended to correspond to the four elements: water, air, fire and earth. Eldborg, the main concert hall, seats 1,800 people. The glowing red interior is reminiscent of fire with the name Eldborg translating as ‘Fire Castle’; this is the name of a volcanic crater on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in the west of Iceland. The second hall, Norðurljós, represents air; the name means ‘Northern Lights’, the spectacular natural marvel associated

with Iceland’s unique landscape. Representing the element earth, Harpa’s third hall is called Silfurberg, the name of a translucent calcite crystal that is rarely found outside Iceland. The fourth hall, Kaldalón, on the first floor, translates as ‘Cold Lagoon’ and was also the surname of one of Iceland‘s most celebrated songwriters, Sigvaldi Kaldalóns.

Eldborg main hall

Nor冒urlj贸s recital hall

Kaldal贸n auditorium

Silfurberg conference hall

Concerts, conferences and events Harpa has already welcomed an impressive cast of celebrated musicians and cultural icons to its halls since its opening in May 2011. International performers have included Jamie Cullum, Bryan Ferry, Tony Bennett, the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, the world-renowned pianist Maria Joao Pires, the violinist and conductor Maxim Vengerov, the conductor Gustavo Dudamel, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Harpa has presented musicians and cultural icons such as  Björk and Yoko Ono, as part of the Iceland Airwaves annual music festival and in spring 2013 the Sónar international music festival took place in Harpa for the first time. Harpa also hosts the Tectonics music festival, Dark Music Days, the Reykjavík Jazz Festival and the Reykjavík Arts Festival. Undercurrent (Undiraldan) is Harpa’s own concert series in the Kaldalón hall which offers aspiring bands from the underground scene a chance to perform in Harpa. Admission to the concerts is free.

A Master Pianist series, offering concerts by some of the world’s finest pianists, is scheduled in Harpa. Among the international conferences that have been held in Harpa since its opening are euwin 2011 and eabct 2011, You Are In Control, Eve Online Fanfest, Vestnorden, Poptech, ViaNordica and Utmessan. Among the wide variety of events held in Harpa have been DesignMarch, the Reykjavík Fashion Festival, a presentation for the car manufacturer Citroën, Björk’s Biophilia educational workshop for children, international chess tournaments and the Icelandic Expo Pavilion, a stunning 360 degree film previously shown at the World Expo in Shanghai. Harpa is also the home of Maximus Musicus, a musical mouse who introduces classical music to the youngest audiences. Maximus Musicus makes a regular appearance in Harpa during the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra‘s children‘s performances or other events for children. Guided tours of the building are available daily from the box office on the first floor. For further information on guided tours and upcoming events visit

Restaurants and shops Harpa’s flagship à la carte restaurant, Kolabrautin, is located on the fourth floor and offers dramatic views of both Reykjavík Harbour and the surrounding city. It can seat up to 180 people. The view from Kolabrautin is fascinating and adds a magical touch to your evening, along with the enticing à la carte menu and ambitious wine list from the New World. Whether you just want to enjoy an aperitif before your meal or have drinks and snacks before or after your Harpa event, the bar at Kolabrautin is your perfect stop. This multi-level bar prides itself on its exotic cocktails and was voted best cocktail bar of 2011 by the Reykjavík Grapevine. Harpa is also home to Munnharpan, a bistro/café/bar on the first floor which serves Danish/French inspired food as well as coffee, beverages and pastries during the day. It is also possible to pre-order a light meal for your concert interval at Munnharpan. Harpa has many portable bars throughout the building as well as an in-house catering service called Hörpudiskurinn which provides for banquets and receptions. Two shops are located in Harpa. The first is the boutique design store Epal on the first floor, featuring unique domestic items, furniture and design articles and gifts. The record shop 12Tónar on the first level offers a wide selection of music ranging from classical to rock, with a particular emphasis on Icelandic music. A bookstore and florist will be located on the first floor from summer 2013.



Epal & 12 T贸nar

Reykjavik and surroundings Due to its geographical location midway between North America and Europe, Iceland has a tremendous advantage when it comes to hosting conferences and meetings. Reykjavík is a hospitable city that succeeds at combining the charm and intimacy of a small town with the quality of a modern, sophisticated city. Reykjavík is known for its vibrant cultural scene and boasts a large number of art galleries and museums. Its proximity to uninhabited natural landscapes means that activities such as glacier tours, whale-watching tours and northern lights tours are all within easy reach.

Harpa Reykjavík Concert Hall and Conference Centre Austurbakki 2 — 101 Reykjavík — Iceland Box office tel. +354 528 5050 For press enquiries: For concert enquiries: For conference enquires:

Design by Brandenburg Printed by Oddi Proofreading by Jeffrey Cosser Photos by Ari Magg, Hörður Sveinsson, Karl Christian Nielsen, Ófeigur Örn Ófeigsson, Vigfús Birgisson and others.

Green policy Harpa uses clean renewable hydro­ electric and geothermal energy sources. The water used in Harpa comes from water reserves located on the outskirts of Reykjavík. It is of the highest quality and no treatment is required before it is distributed to consumers. The facade is made of glass, resulting in reduction in lighting cost.

All waste in Harpa is sorted and recycled where possible. All detergents used in the building are marked with the Swan label, a well-known symbol of approval for environmentally-friendly products in the Nordic countries. Paper hand-towels and other disposable paper products used in Harpa are made from recycled material and carry either the EU or the Blue Angel eco-label.

Profile for Harpa

Harpa – Reykjavik's latest landmark  

Reykjavik's latest landmark

Harpa – Reykjavik's latest landmark  

Reykjavik's latest landmark