Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Icelandic Opera by Arkitema and Arkthing

When building in Iceland up to the elf hill Borgarholt, it demands a special in depth understanding of Iceland's history. A complex new opera house for the Icelandic national opera deserves a building with presence and grace, a new cultural landmark for Reykjavik. Arkitema and Arkthing's winning proposal takes its concept based on these premises and has created a building both to the Opera, the elves, the capital's residents and the tow of Kopavogur in Reykjavik.

Deep underground, in the highlands and under the cliffs around Iceland live the elves. Their dens are not visible from the outside, but it is believed that they live underground somewhere or other. From the outside the elves’ homes are dark and enclosed, but from the inside a radiant and crystalline space is revealed. The Opera’s expressional form with its heavy and massive lower floor level and its light and crystalline upper floor level refers to the mythical home of the elves. The heavy expression of the lower level is broken up with window openings that vary in size but which all replicate the cubic form.
Over the base the transparent shining cubic tower rises up, housing the main scene and the opera’s large concert hall which can hold an audience of up to 820. The facade of the shining cube is a glass screen with LED lights which give the facade an ever changing appearance, that through the course of a day changes in colour and strength. The characteristic cube is the Opera’s landmark that will light up Reykjavik, and from the interior be the Opera’s distinctive feature. The cube continues down through the building so that it is visible from the interior, allowing the large foyer area to look directly into the concert hall.

With the elf hill as their one neighbour and the town as the other, the Opera is situated between history, tradition, a modern urban district and a cultural landscape with a library, museum and cultural centre.

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