Food, Days Out and Travel stories from Brighton, London and the Rest of the World


Travel - A Guide to Art and Architecture in Reykjavik, Iceland

Wherever I go I tend to walk with my head tilted upwards as I look at the buildings around me. Reykjavik, Iceland was no exception.  In particular their brand-new show-piece concert hall Harpa, opened in 2011, gave me a whole ceiling full of refracting light to turn my head towards.

Reykjavik, Iceland photo by modern bric a brac

Harpa, Reykjavik, Iceland

There were birds suspended from the ceiling, which reminded me of birds I once saw suspended from the ceiling in the Royal Festival Hall, London along with hexagonal shapes that reminded me of the Giant's Causeway.  I wasn't too far off in respect of the latter as the formations at the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland and Iceland's own geology share the same volcanic roots.

Harpa, Reykjavik, Iceland

The building in other respects visually reflected the spectacular natural landscape that can be found in Iceland and the vast scale and depth of the foyer seemed fitting.

Along one side of the interior wall a walkway from the top floor gave the appearance viewed from above of cascading down towards ground level, like a river from a mountaintop.  The overall effect was impressive. Designed by visual artist Olafur Eliasson the project was a collaboration of a firm of architects and creative inspiration.

Harpa, Reykjavik, Iceland

The other building that captivated me was the mighty Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik's Lutheran cathedral that can be seen for miles around and was equally impressive from a distance as it was from within.

Viking Leifur Eiriksson, Reykjavik

Standing proudly in front of it, as if guarding its hallowed ground was the statue of the Viking Leifur Eiriksson. Given as a gift by the USA in 1930 it was erected to commemorate the first European to discover America.

Although the construction of Hallgrimskirkja, designed by Guðjón Samuel and Harpa are separated by a period of 60 years it was interesting to discover how both strikingly share the same influences of the natural world on their design.

Inside, the Lutheran interior assumed an austere simplicity, without ornament, flourish or decoration with a ceiling that rose to extraordinary heights and had a beauty all its own.

While we stood there staring upwards one of the organists sat down to practise and suddenly we were struck by the powerful, transformative sound that was propelled out of the organ's 5,275 pipes, bringing the whole space dramatically to life.

Upstairs one of the ladies of the church took my Welsh one and I to look behind the scenes at the workings of the organ and while we were there we admired up close the stained glass commemorating Iceland's most treasured hymn writer Hallgrim.

Then we took the lift to the top where we enjoyed a 360 degree view of Reykjavik and it was marvellous.

Back on the streets, sculptures and wall art caught my eye and I took pictures as we walked around getting to know Reykjavik.

viking boat sculpture, Solfar meaning Sun Voyager
Viking boat sculpture, Solfar meaning Sun Voyager
The final sculpture is actually the first thing we stopped to look at. A Viking boat called Solfar, which means Sun Voyager and it sits on a piece of polished marble pointing out to sea, by Jon Gunnar Arnarson, made in 1971.

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