Concert hall extraordinaire!
Harpa Reykjavík Concert Hall and Conference Center is one of the must visit places when on vacation in Reykjavik. There you can enjoy music, attend conferences and meetings, enjoy delicious food in one of the restaurants or buy Icelandic design and music in one of the shops.
Harpa is the Icelandic word for the musical instrument harp which they say the angels play. Many Icelandic women have been given this beautiful name and the first month of spring in the Old Norse calendar is also called Harpa.
Icelanders waited a long time for their concert hall and when constructions for Harpa started ... well: You've probably heard of the financial crash of 2008, right? In spite of these troubles, it was decided that the work would go on and Harpa opened in May 2011, it has since attracted about four million guests; remember that Iceland has a population of about 325,000.
It's like magic
The main designer of Harpa is the Danish architectural firm Henning Larsen Architects and the Icelandic architectural firm Batteríið Architects; the glass facade was designed by Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson. Icelandic nature is unique and so is Harpa and its glass facade; it was the unspoiled nature of the country, the volcanos and the arctic light that inspired the architects as well as the work of Elíasson. Because of the unique glasswork, the appearance of the building changes, with the colors seemingly dancing on the facade, especially when it's dark outside. The magical light show switches regularly; special light installments have been designed for the facade and during last year's Reykjavik culture night the people of Reykjavik could use the facade to play a simple video game through a special smart phone app. It's a spectacular light show.
Take a closer look
You can have an English language guided tour at Harpa that takes you into the various concert halls, teaches about the technology used, the construction history and the design features. During the tour, if you are lucky, you'll get to stand in the footsteps of the stars and get a picture of yourself standing on the grand stage of Eldborg, the Grand Red Hall. Also offered are guided tours for the technical enthusiasts who want to learn more about the various technical equipment and solutions, and the complicated engineering behind the glass facade.
It's worth mentioning that Harpa is the winner of the 2013 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture, the Mies van der Rohe Award (bear in mind that Iceland is not a member of the EU). Some say that Harpa is an architectural masterpiece and we agree, Harpa is a true work of art. But it's more than that, the building has been called Icelander's assembly hall because it's not just for those who enjoy great classical music but rather it's a place for every kind of music from school bands to rock to combinations of dance and pop productions, a place that welcomes all kinds of art and all kinds of people.
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By: Svava Jónsdóttir
Photos: Kristinn Magnússon